Thank you, Senator Rockefeller, for that kind introduction---and for your support of the SBA and America’s small businesses.
Senator Rockefeller has been a long-time leader in boosting the sale of American-made goods and services to markets around the globe.
And I particularly want to thank you for pushing for a key provision in the Small Business Jobs Act that supported export promotion.
This is critical to job creation efforts and to making West Virginia and our nation more competitive.
If fact, I recently read that West Virginia had a record year in exports in 2011, and led the nation in export growth.
So I want to say thank you for your leadership on this important issue.
It’s great to be here today. Let me quickly recognize Winslow Sargeant, our head of advocacy, and Judy McCauley, our director here in West Virginia. They both do incredible work and are outstanding leaders.
This is my second time in West Virginia as SBA Administrator. I was here about a year ago.
During my visit, I had the chance to tour the Azimuth facility in Fairmont, a company that I know many of you are familiar with.
Azimuth is run by a great guy named Craig Hartzell, who has been instrumental in the growth of this conference.
And who I understand couldn’t be here today because he’s in New Zealand working on an underwater monitoring system that will be used on Navy boats.
One of the things Craig talked about when we met was why he chose to build his business in West Virginia.
He talked about rural values.
He talked about the incredible work ethic, the loyalty and the commitment of the people in this state. And how this has been a competitive advantage for his business.
It’s why a majority of his more than 80 employees are located here.
Craig’s words really stuck with me.
And one of our goals at the SBA, and across the Administration, is making sure that more entrepreneurs who live in rural areas, or industrial communities, or other places that investors and financial institutions too often overlook have the access and opportunity they need to start, build and grow their businesses.
Innovation and entrepreneurship doesn’t just take place in New York and Silicon Valley.
It’s happening right here in West Virginia, all along the I-79 High Tech Corridor…in Morgantown, in Fairmont and in Clarksburg.
It’s happening because small businesses are working closely with NASA, with the Department of Energy and with West Virginia University.
And it’s happening in places like Detroit and Pittsburg and Cleveland.
And if we really want to grow our economy—and be more globally competitive—we need to make sure that we can harness the potential of entrepreneurs and small businesses in all of these communities.
And one of the most effective tools we have for doing that is government contracting.
We oversee this program for small businesses at the SBA. It’s about $100 billion a year that goes to small businesses. The cost to taxpayers is: zero.
We view contracting as a win-win.
The government gets to work with the most innovative and forward leaning companies in America today—often with direct access to the CEO. And small businesses get $100 billion in revenue to build and scale their operations.
In West Virginia, we helped small businesses access nearly $750 million in federal contracts in 2010.
And we are committed to working with you to make sure you have all of the tools you need to be successful contractors, sub-contractors and that you able to effectively team together to win large federal contracts.
And we have a range of resources on our Web site at www.sba.gov/teaming to assist you.
West Virginia has been a national leader in teaming – and this conference has been a key factor in making that possible.
And we know two of the most important things a small business needs to be a successful government contractor is: Access to capital and counseling.
Access to Capital
How many of you have used an SBA loan to grow and support your business?
Last year was a record year for the SBA. We supported more than $30 billion in lending to over 60,000 small businesses across the country.
These loans help small businesses purchase the equipment, software and tools needed to successfully perform on contracts.
And we continue to make our loan programs better.
You told us that working capital was an issue, so we redesigned our CAPLines program to make sure that small businesses who win big orders have the cash-on-hand you need to service these orders.
Since we launched the redesigned CAPLines program in September of 2011, we’ve seen a more than 220 percent increase in loans.
The next area is counseling. Counseling is vital to growing your businesses and to being an effective contractor.
How many of you have a mentor or use our counseling services?
I should see every hand go up. It’s a free service – and our research shows it makes a tremendous difference in the long-term success of a small business.
At the SBA, we have a network of 900 Small Business Development Centers. 110 Women’s Business Centers. And 12,000 participants in our SCORE Network. This is our bone structure.
Here in West Virginia. There are long time counselors like Sharon Stratton, who heads the SBDC here in Morgantown (and who is here today), and there is an excellent SCORE chapter in Fairmont. And, as you know, Judy McCauley and our team at SBA, are extremely helpful.
Last year, our resource network reached more than 1 million small business owners.
And more than 2.5 million entrepreneurs have accessed free online training since 2009 through our expanded online resources.
And one of the areas we are focused on now is using the experiences and network we have built helping small businesses access the federal supply chain and leveraging it to create more opportunities for you in commercial supply chains.
I was recently in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, visiting a tool and die manufacturing facility called Carbi-Tech.
It’s a great family run business co-founded by Rhett Crooks and his wife, Carol.
The company supplies custom precision parts to General Motors.
I asked Rhett what he needs to take his business to the next level. He said, without hesitation, being able to broaden his sales to more large companies.
I hear this all over the country.
Research shows that after a small supplier secures a contract from a large enterprise their revenue grows on average 250% -- and as a result – that creates a 150% increase in jobs in just two or three years.
That’s why I am leading an initiative for the President called the American Supplier Initiative.
It’s a call to action to the private sector to invest in their supply chains by using more small business suppliers.
The centerpiece of this initiative is a public-private partnership called Supplier Connection.
It’s a web portal built by the IBM Foundation that makes it easier for small businesses to tap into the supply chains of major U.S. companies.
It works like a universal—or common—college application. You fill in the supplier form once -- and then you’re in the supplier databases of all the large companies using the portal.
The forms are very similar to the Central Contractor Registration. And those familiar with the Registration can be up and running on Supplier Connection in a few hours.
Today, there are 17 corporations signed up, including major corporations like John Deere, Caterpillar, Pfizer and Facebook.
The participating companies have a combined supply chain of more than $300 billion. And there are efforts to grow the number of large corporations to as many as 100 over the next two years.
We currently have more than 4,000 small businesses signed up -- and we are looking to sign up more.
So I urge you all to go to www.supplier-connection.net.
And before I close I just want to make sure that you are all taking advantage of the tax credits that are available to your businesses.
President Obama has put into place 18 new tax cuts for small businesses. So if you are not taking advantage of these, I urge you to go to our Web site—SBA.gov—to learn more.
In addition, as part of the President’s “To Do” list for Congress, we’re asking for a 10 percent income tax credit for firms that create new jobs or increase wages in 2012.
We also want to extend the popular 100 percent expensing provision for 2012.
Economy Built to Last
So let me just close with one last point…
And it’s a quote from an entrepreneur we work with in Ohio.
He said: “Government cannot start your business, but they can help accelerate what you do.”
That’s what we’re focused on across the SBA.
Accelerating the growth of your businesses….through contracting, through access to capital, through counseling and through innovative public-private partnerships like Supplier Connection.
I was with the President a few weeks ago. We were at a sandwich shop in Washington – meeting with small businesses owners that worked with the SBA to grow their businesses.
The President talked about how important it is that we invest in America’s small businesses.
He talked about how all across the country we are seeing small business owners who have confidence in the economy and confidence in America.
We know it’s been a difficult few years, but our nation’s strength has always been rooted in the ingenuity of our small businesses—and the imagination of our entrepreneurs.
It’s this combination that has lifted generations of Americans into the middle class. And it has produced some of the world’s greatest innovations.
Our goal is to make sure that you have the access and opportunity you need to build on this proud tradition.
Because, as the President has said, we know that when you are succeeding----America succeeds.