Since the earliest days of the Obama administration, spurring innovation has been a singular priority of our economic recovery efforts.
So I was excited to spend this morning at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, CA, speaking at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Summit on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth.
The purpose of this Summit was to bring together local Silicon Valley stakeholders to discuss steps the administration has already taken to empower businesses, and to discuss how we can expand opportunities and identify roadblocks to federal government programs among the AAPI community.
It’s a critically important undertaking.
Hundreds of Silicon Valley’s tech companies are run by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – a fact that reflects just how important the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation are in the AAPI community.
In fact, AAPIs have the highest rate of business ownership among all minorities, and AAPI businesses account for half of all minority business employment in the United States.
These facts should be of interest not just to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, but to all Americans, because AAPI and other minority businesses make substantial contributions to the U.S. economy, generating up to $2.5 trillion in gross receipts and 16.1 million jobs.
In the last few years, AAPI businesses – indeed all businesses -- have reaped significant benefits from Obama administration policies designed to spur growth and job creation ranging from increased tax deductions for new equipment and startup costs, and tax credits to provide employee health care coverage to improve access to capital through the Small Business Administration.
Despite all the success the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has had as a whole, many aspiring AAPI business owners continue to face linguistic and cultural challenges when it comes to accessing federal programs. Many still cannot get the loans or the capital they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers, thus stifling the opportunity to contribute to our community, to our economy, and to our future.
To help knock down these barriers to success, the Summit featured advice and counseling from top advisors from the White House National Economic Council, Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Department of Treasury and the Export-Import Bank.
The Summit is among the first salvos in a major push by the Obama administration to solicit public input from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. In the coming months, more than 20 executive departments and agencies will tour the country looking for new ideas and proposals on how the federal government can make real the goals shared by large business leaders and entrepreneurs alike.
Attendees at the Summit took part in break-out discussions aimed to dial in on critical areas on growing business, including funding opportunities from the Small Business Administration, steps toward becoming a federal contractor and introductions to the federal government’s domestic assistance programs, trade promotion, and export finance agencies.
The Summit was by all accounts extremely productive, but it is just a first step. We’re going to keep working to ensure that everyone in the AAPI community who wants to achieve success will have the opportunity to find it.
Gary Locke is Secretary of Commerce