As the nation continues to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it’s clear that small businesses are playing a critical role in helping our communities rebound and rebuild.
Last week, in my first trip to southern California during my tenure at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, I heard from members of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce just how eager entrepreneurial leaders in that community are to help improve opportunities for businesses and residents alike. In a business roundtable with representatives from industries ranging from finance to construction, chamber members discussed ways to improve education and support job creation by expanding programs that benefit small businesses. The kind of engagement I witnessed that day shows promise for Los Angeles—and for other areas around the country.
Across the nation, small businesses generated more than 64 percent of all new jobs in the last 15 years—yet Los Angeles chamber members pointed to their ongoing challenges in the face of tightening access to capital. It’s no wonder that under the leadership of President Obama, the Administration has made it a priority to provide tax relief to small businesses while taking concrete steps to improve lending and create incentives that will encourage new growth and expand existing businesses. The Administration has already put in place policies that enable small businesses to expense new capital investments. President Obama has also committed to providing $2 billion in matching funding through the Small Business Administration to support promising companies in underserved communities.
Chamber members in Los Angeles also discussed the Unified School District’s 50 percent dropout rate and noted one way to address the problem would be to eliminate ineffective teachers and reward successful teachers. On this issue as well, the Obama Administration has made strides by incentivizing states to develop innovative approaches to help teachers improve student outcomes. The fact that the LA Chamber of Commerce was focused on this issue speaks volumes about the scale of the problem—and offers hope that local leaders will be hard at work ensuring we invest in the right solutions.
Time and again, the President has made clear the only way America can win the future is to out-build, out-innovate, and out-educate our global competitors. If the small business leaders I met in Los Angeles are any indication of the kind of talent and commitment present in our communities, I have absolute faith that we will do just that. With their unique ideas and focus, I’m certain that small businesses will continue to lead the way.
David Strickland is Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and America’s chief automobile regulator.