Winning the Future: On the Ground in Chicago with Small Business Owners

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from Treasury Notes

In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a vision for America to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our competitors. At a meeting with small business owners in Cleveland on that initiative, President Obama charged members of his Administration to travel across the country and speak directly with business leaders on the ground in local communities—to hear how we can help them succeed, so that they can help America succeed.

On Wednesday, as part of that outreach effort, I held a roundtable with small business owners in Chicago. That followed meetings I had with business leaders in New Jersey and New York over the last two months.

The Women’s Business Development Center of Chicago, which hosted yesterday’s event, is one of the largest and oldest women’s business assistance programs in the country. This year, they will celebrate their 25th anniversary. The center continues to grow each day, and, to date, they have served approximately 65,000 women small business owners, focusing on companies at every stage in the growth cycle. Their organization has also served as a national model, helping six states establish their own business centers.

Treasurer Rosie Rios at the the Women’s Business Development Center of Chicago

Chief Operating Officer of the Women's Business Development Council (WBDC), WBDC Co-Founder & Co-President Hedy M. Ratner, Illinois District Director of U.S. Small Business Administration Judith Roussel, and Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios at the Women's Business Development Center. (Photo by WBDC)

Yesterday, I had a chance to hear from 20 small business owners, listening to their views and concerns. I was encouraged to hear that many of them are ready to take the next step to grow their business. Some, however, are struggling to access the capital they need to expand their operations. We’re working to address that issue through the State Small Business Credit Initiative, Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF), and other critical programs included in the Small Business Jobs Act. With the necessary access to capital and resources available, these businesses will continue to seek growth opportunities to hire more Americans.

Many of these companies are true success stories for entrepreneurs all around the country. For example, Michele Hoskins, Founder of Michele’s Foods, started out by testing a syrup recipe in her grandmother’s basement and now her products are sold in more than 10,000 retail outlets. Then there is Marsha Serlin, CEO of United Scrap Metal, who started by collecting scrap metal in an alley. She grew her business of recycling that scrap metal to a business worth $200 million.

I was inspired that these women had the courage and fortitude to invest in their businesses. Entrepreneurs like them across our country are leading this recovery by turning their good ideas into good paying jobs for Americans. And we want to do everything we can to ensure they have the support they need to do just that. Working in partnership with the private sector with programs like the SSBCI, SBLF, and others across the Administration, we’ll continue to strengthen this recovery, grow our economy, and put more Americans back to work.

Rosie Rios is the Treasurer of the United States.
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