Indian Treaty Room
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1:33 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, again, good afternoon. Good afternoon to everyone here. I want to start by thanking each of you business leaders for joining us for this afternoon’s discussion at the White House.
We have asked you to join us in this discussion because you are truly leaders not only in the place where you live and work, but you are national leaders. And it is through the benefit of a discussion with you where we are going to listen more than we talk that we will get feedback and perspective on how the work that we are doing is helping our small-business leaders, our entrepreneurs to grow.
We fully understand that when our entrepreneurs and our small-business leaders are strong, America is strong. Because what you do is the work that is, yes, about innovation, it is the work that is spurred by creativity, it is the work we always want to encourage that is about aspiration and ambition, and it is the work that really is the undergird of — of the economy of the United States of America.
Small businesses and small-business owners, then, represent half of America’s workforce. Half of America’s private workforce works for or runs a small business.
And when I think about our small-business leaders and each of you, I know who you are. You are not only leaders in business, leaders in innovation, entrepreneurs, but you are also civic leaders. You are community leaders. You are role models. You hire locally, you mentor, and you inspire.
So when we think about the work that we must do — for me as Vice President of the United States, for us as an administration — it is about continuously focusing on what we can do to strengthen our nation. And that means strengthening and supporting the work that each of you has accomplished that brings us to this conversation today and the work yet to be done moving forward.
At this table, we have entrepreneurs, small-business owners who are working in the area of space, technology, addressing the climate crisis and understanding the — the opportunities that exist there in terms of growing a clean energy economy and growing a workforce that has the skills and the ability to lead, where we can be unburdened by where we have been.
The leaders at this table have shown grit and creativity in terms of pulling together their resources to grow an idea into something that actually benefits communities and all of society.
And the work that, then, we are going to do coming out of this meeting is to continue to then grow our administration’s focus on what we can do to support you.
For example, when I was a United States senator, I worked with some of the senators who were there at the time, and we got an additional $12 billion to go into our community banks, community lenders, CDFIs — understanding that financial institutions that are rooted in and run by folks who understand the community are best situated to understand the capacity of the community, the needs of the community, the mores of the community, and then to understand how to appropriately invest in the potential and the growth of a community.
So, we’re going to talk a little bit about that, which is: What can we do to strengthen the work that we have been doing with community banks in a way that it assists you to continue to grow?
We’re going to talk about the realities for any small business, including, in particular, small businesses owned by people of color — Black people, Latinos, Asians, others — in terms of some of the challenges that exist for anyone but are of a particular concern for our small-business owners who are people of color, which is access to capital, access to markets, access to consumers — access — and what can we do to facilitate and better improve access so that you can then be out there to compete. Because if your product’s good, you will be able to do that, but access to resources shouldn’t be the obstacle between you being able to have what is necessary to compete in a fair way or not.
To that extent, yes, we do talk about equity. We actually believe it is a good principle, in spite what some so-called leaders might try to suggest. We are proud of the fact that equity is one of our gri- — guiding principles, proud of the fact that we understand equality is important, but not everybody starts out on the same base.
So, it sounds like it might be right; everyone gets an equal share and then they should compete and the best thing will win. But that assumes everyone starts out on the same base. Equity takes into account that may not be the case, but we want to give everyone an equal opportunity to compete and to not only survive but thrive.
So, these are some of the guiding principles behind us coming together today. But, most importantly, we are here today to recognize your excellence and to hold that up as models of who we are as a nation and what we can do to continue to grow not only our economy but our capacity and strength as it relates to so many issues.
So, again, I thank the leaders for taking the time out of your busy schedules, for so many of you, for traveling to make the journey to be here for this important discussion.
And I now will turn it over to Deputy Secretary Graves from the Department of Commerce to help moderate our discussion.
I also want to thank Under Secretary Cravins for your excellent work and — and for the conversations that we will have about how we support our young men of color who are the entrepreneurs and business leaders in our country.
END 1:40 P.M. EDT