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Remarks at Summit on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth, Mountain View, California

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Friday, January 7, 2011
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
202-482-4883

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Remarks at Summit on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth, Mountain View, California

Hello, everybody – it’s great to be here. It’s an honor to serve as co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and given my day job as Secretary of Commerce, there was simply no way I wasn’t going to be here with you all today.

This summit on entrepreneurship and small business growth will be valuable for anyone considering starting or growing a small business.  And that means this summit will be important for America as a whole, because entrepreneurship is such a key driver of job growth. 

Consider the fact that firms less than 5 years old accounted for nearly all increased employment in the private sector from 1980 to 2005.   Or that nearly 40 percent of our nation’s employment comes from companies that didn’t even exist in 1980.  This is the power and promise of entrepreneurship.

In these first few days of 2011, the Obama administration’s focus remains where it was in 2010 – on helping U.S. businesses grow so they can hire more people. And there’s no doubt that this pursuit will rely heavily on the success of the Asian American/Pacific Islander community and its businesses.

Every day, two million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders breathe life into small businesses – the very engines that grow our economy. There are more than one million AAPI owned firms in the United States – generating well over $300 billon dollars in sales—and employing 50 percent of all workers at minority firms.

We in the Obama administration want to make it easier for you to create, to grow and to hire.  That’s why we’ve assembled many of our experts on innovation, data and technology here to offer guidance on federal efforts on job growth and business development. 

There’s a great legacy of Asian American/Pacific Islander entrepreneurs, innovators and small business owners in America – all we want to do is smooth the way for that long line of accomplishment to continue.

Since President Obama was elected, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide have seen substantive gains in employment and achieved new heights in business engagement.

That success didn’t come easy. No one here needs reminding that our failing economy desperately needed swift and bold action after President Obama took office. So within the first 90 days, this administration:

  • Passed a Recovery Act that provided tax cuts for more than 110 million people;
  • Implemented the Small Business Jobs Act that put much-needed capital in the hands of entrepreneurs like many of you; and
  • Passed the HIRE Act that offered new incentives for companies to hire Americans who had lost their jobs because of the recession.

Within the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, 8,000 AAPI-owned businesses have received over $5 billion worth of new loans thanks to the Recovery Act. That money has been used to invest in new employees and new tools for innovation and invention, and to encourage expansion of small and large businesses alike.

We’ve also implemented a variety of tax cuts to help AAPI businesses.

If you launch a small business, you can deduct a full $10,000 of its startup costs, and if you need to buy new equipment, go ahead and immediately write off the first $500,000 of your investments.

If you are self-employed, you can deduct 100 percent of the health-care expenses incurred by you and your family.

If you hire new employees who had previously been unemployed, there’s a tax credit for that.

And if you hire new employees and offer them health care, there’s a tax credit for that as well.

Along with these significant tax measures, we've provided more direct assistance to APPI firms.

AAPI small businesses have won over $1 billion in new government contracts.  And the Small Business Administration has awarded minority-owned firms with grants for cutting edge R&D ventures.

Because so many of you have family, friends and other contacts in other countries around the world, we’ve made AAPI outreach an important part of our National Export Initiative. 

You often speak the language and understand the culture abroad, and the federal government has offered extensive counseling for those interested in export and trade initiatives abroad.

And these investments are starting to pay off.  Economic growth is accelerating, consumer confidence is returning and the administration is confident that job creation will pick up pace. 

Despite continued hardship among Asian/Pacific Islanders, the community overall is thriving.  Asian American/Pacific Islanders are now more likely to hire and retain employment and spur economic growth than other business owners.

But there is plenty of work left to be done.  Even as we meet here, somewhere in America a mother sits restlessly at a kitchen table. She can’t sleep because she’s worried she can’t pay her bills. She’s working hard trying to pay her rent, feed her kids, but she just can’t catch up. Unfortunately, she’s not alone. 

The best way to end this mother's anxiety is to create new jobs and new opportunities.  That's where all of you come in. 

In the coming months, more than 20 executive departments and agencies will be soliciting public input from Asian American/Pacific Islander communities like this one for ideas as to how we can expand opportunities and identify roadblocks to federal government programs.

I hope you all leave here informed as to what we’re doing to help. But I also want you to make sure you tell us what we can do better.

There are unique challenges still facing the AAPI community, such as language barriers or the lack of awareness of the many programs the administration offers – which is why the White House Initiative and summits like these are still necessary.

When it comes to new ideas, our only criterion is whether they work or not.  It doesn’t matter if they come from the left or the right, the boardroom or academia. We simply will not rest until every American who wants a job can find one.

So let’s make sure this summit is a two-way street of information.

Before I wrap up, I just wanted to note how integral AAPI entrepreneurs and small businesses are to Silicon Valley’s economic dynamism and success – playing a key role in innovations in technology, clean energy, health IT and other growing sectors.

It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago that the tech revival here in Silicon Valley was already helping spur the overall California economy. Over the last six months, the unemployment rate in Silicon Valley has eased faster than the rest of the state. And since late 2009, this region has accounted for nearly 12,000 of the 66,000 jobs that California has added since the recession.

The Obama administration recognizes that Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs and small business-owners help drive U.S. leadership in high-tech sectors, making this summit a vital part of our efforts to encourage progress that ripples outward.

Our speakers here today include some of Silicon Valley’s leading entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who will share their perspectives on working with and benefitting from federal programs and resources.

It’s my hope that this summit will provide a space for people to exchange ideas, encourage new conversations and spur thoughts into action. With the talent and expertise we have here today, I have no doubt that this community will find some successful partnerships to guide success in the long-term.

America boasts a great legacy of innovation and that’s true of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in particular.  Someone in this audience could be the next Jerry Yang – a person who changes the world with his or her idea or new business. 

Maybe it’s a new clean energy technology, or a new way for people to communicate. Whatever it is, President Obama has pledged to support and encourage those Americans seeking to unleash their entrepreneurial passions.  Gatherings like this one are an important step towards that goal.

I'd like to thank you all for coming again and I look forward to hearing your ideas, and your recommendations.