A Fitting End to Small Business Week

Each year, the Small Business Administration recognizes a Small Business Person of the Year from every state, as well as several U.S. territories. Many of this year’s winners visited the White House last week, as part of our Champions of Change program. On Friday, I attended a lunch honoring all of the 2011 award winners, and got the chance to thank some of the incredible entrepreneurs who are helping us win the future.

The men and women who came to DC for the event represented the full breadth of the small business experience in the United States – everything from baking to business consulting, from marine observation to medical-equipment rental. No matter what industry they come from, or what business model they pursue, their companies, and others like them, are making crucially important contributions to our country. As President Obama has often said, small businesses are, “the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of America’s promise.”

In fact, small businesses and entrepreneurs employ half of America’s workers, and create two out of every three new jobs. And of course, iconic American companies, from McDonald’s and Microsoft to Ford and Facebook, began as small businesses. As we recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression, entrepreneurship is one of our most powerful economic engines.

The small businesses we honored on Friday contribute to their communities in other ways, as well. During my remarks at the lunch, I highlighted Janice Lucerno, the owner of MVD Express, a business in New Mexico that helps reduce wait times at the Motor Vehicle Department by processing driver’s licenses and other paperwork. MVD Express was one of many inspiring women-owned businesses represented at the lunch, and as the proud chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, it was a pleasure to see so many terrific role models being honored for their leadership.

I also got a chance to highlight other extraordinary businesses that deliver important goods and services, both at home and abroad. For example, the winner from Indiana, Rick McKeel, is exporting products to 16 countries around the world, and the winners from New York, Vanessa and Mark Kelly, produce cables that help protect Humvees and other military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, these were just a few of the many remarkable stories in the room. Every one of the 2011 Small Business Person of the Year Award Winners represented the spirit of innovation that has made our country great.

The lunch was held on the final day of National Small Business Week, but I believe that in America, every week should be small business week. While President Obama knows government will never be a replacement for hard work and ingenuity, his Administration is fully committed to being a powerful partner for small business. That’s why the President has signed 17 small business tax cuts into law, helped increase access to capital, and created programs like Startup America, which help give entrepreneurs the tools they need.

In recent months, there are new signs our economic recovery is picking up steam: seven straight quarters of GDP growth, more than two million private sector jobs created in the last 14 months, and more than 750,000 private sector jobs created in the last three months alone. Of course, we still have a lot of challenging work ahead. As we work together to Win the Future, the Obama Administration will continue to support small businesses, and the American entrepreneurs who make them so successful.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.
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