Ben Cardin - Senator for Maryland

INTRODUCTION OF SMALL BUSINESS GOALING ACT OF 2012 AND NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS WEEK

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I take this time to bring to the attention of my colleagues that we are celebrating National Small Business Week, which is a very important occasion because, as the Senator from New Hampshire understands, the growth engine for America is our small businesses. When we are looking at job growth, which we all know we need in order to get our economy moving again, we know there will be more jobs created from small companies than from large companies. About two out of every three jobs created in America will come from small companies.

   We also know when we are looking at innovation, it is the small businesses that file the patents and come up with the creative new ideas for America to become as competitive as we need to be. There are an incredibly larger number of patents per employee from small companies than from large companies. So the growth engine for America's economy rests with our small businesses.

   I am proud to serve on the Small Business Committee under the leadership of Chairman Landrieu. We have brought forward many initiatives that help small businesses, and I think it has made a huge difference as our economy is starting to recover. We are now looking at 25 consecutive months of continuous private sector job growth where we have turned around the economy and we are now growing. In large measure I think it is because of the attention we have paid to the small business community. We are proud of what it has meant for our entire country.

   Let me speak a little bit about my State of Maryland. We have over 500,000 small businesses in Maryland that employ over 1 million people. So it is by far a huge part of the Maryland economy. Our strategy over the last several years during the Obama administration has been to concentrate on small businesses and, in particular, to help them recover from this economic recession.

   The first effort was to increase the capacity of the Small Business Administration. I was proud of the Obama budget that put more money back into the Small Business Administration. I was proud of the initiative we had in the Senate to add funds to the Small Business Administration so that the SBA could indeed be the advocate for the small business community; so that small businesses have an agency in the government that is fighting for their issues. It has made a huge difference. When I speak with the small businesses in Maryland, they tell me they now have a much greater capacity for help through counselors and advocates at the Small Business Administration.

   We then dealt with the No. 1 issue that was brought to our attention--and I am sure the Presiding Officer has heard the same stories in New Hampshire I have heard in Maryland--that small businesses have had a hard time getting access to capital; that we need to do a better job of providing capital, particularly during a tough economic period where small businesses don't have the same deep pockets as the larger companies.

   So we increased the SBA loan limits, increased the amount of the Federal loan guarantee in order to make it more attractive for banks to lend money to small businesses, knowing full well the government was standing behind those loans. That made some monies available. We looked for creative new programs to help our small businesses, including one in the Treasury Department. We also looked at helping our States by initiating partnerships with our States.

   The additional funds we made available in Washington to help build the State programs has made many more loans available to small companies in Maryland. All of that has helped in providing opportunities for our small businesses.

   The reauthorization of the SBIR Program and the STTR Program has made a huge difference. Since 1983, in my State of Maryland, $1.5 billion of funding has come from the SBIR Program. For those who are listening who may not know what this program is about, it is about innovation. It is small companies that are involved in biotech and cybertech areas where they use innovation to create jobs. In my State and in the Presiding Officer's State, they are using these funds to create opportunities for America to be competitive internationally.

  We can state chapter and verse for our national defense research or for clean energy technology where small businesses are taking advantage of these innovative research grants and have been able to build jobs in our communities and make America more competitive for the future. The reauthorization and thus predictability of funding under the SBIR Program and the increased amounts that are available will create, and has already created, more job opportunities. We got that done, and that was certainly a major step forward.

   We passed bills providing tax breaks to small businesses, including the expensing of their equipment, so they can go out and buy equipment and keep things moving.

   There are other areas where we have also moved forward to help our small businesses, including credits for their health insurance so they can cover their employees. In my own State of Maryland, we have set up an African Trade Office which has provided opportunities in international trade--an area where we think we can still make progress.

   I could talk about many of the success stories of Maryland small businesses that have used the SBIR Program, including one to develop new treatment for smallpox vaccines to make them more efficient. We have had examples of where we are now developing a vaccine to deal with the common cold.

   I was at an SBA event where we honored the leading entrepreneurs in our State, and I can cite an example of a small businessperson, Janet Amirault, who was the small businessperson of the year--the CEO of a software development company. She has had some personal issues with her health, but despite that, for the last 3 years she has had 90 percent growth in her revenues. This is the innovation we have in Maryland that comes out of the small business community.

   Another example is Taylor Made Transportation Services, which first qualified under the 8(a) program, and has now graduated from that. They started with a small transportation company that provided transportation for people with special needs and is now providing for diverse transportation needs in our communities. All of that has developed through small business programs that we helped develop.

   So I come to the floor today to announce a new initiative that I will be filing today, the Small Business Goaling Act, to deal with another problem we have with small businesses that I hope we will be able to take up on the floor of the Senate in the very near future. It would increase the prime goals for small businesses in government procurement from 23 percent to 25 percent and increase the subcontracting goals to 40 percent, adding transparency to how government provides procurement opportunities for government contracts to small businesses.

   We have also taken some action in dealing with bundling and trying to prevent the bundling of small contracts into large contracts that makes it more difficult for small businesses to get prime contracts. I believe this legislation will improve transparency and visibility so we can, in fact, provide more opportunities; so the government leads by example, by using small companies more to help them grow. It will help a variety of small businesses, including disabled veteran companies, women-owned companies, and minority-owned companies so that all will benefit from these opportunities.

   I wish to thank the chairperson of the Small Business Committee, Senator Landrieu, for her extraordinary help in getting this bill together. It will help small businesses by allowing them to grow and create jobs, thereby helping our country in recovery.

   The best way to help celebrate National Small Business Week is for us to pay more attention to helping small businesses grow.

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