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Engaging Arab and Muslim Small Business Owners

A White House roundtable on the economy brings together a wide range of business leaders from the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities.
Muslim-American and Arab-American Roundtable on the Economy 1

Roundtable attendees listen as a recent graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland speaks about the challenges of starting a new business, June 6, 2012.

Yesterday, we had a chance to hear directly from successful business leaders from the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities at a White House Roundtable on the Economy. We were hosted at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy for this first in a series of business roundtables around the country to gather advice on how to create an economy built to last by supporting small businesses.

The roundtable brought together entrepreneurs from a wide range of professions, ranging from IT specialists, physicians, and pharmacists to hoteliers and realtors—all of whom have created successful small businesses that are driving our economy. The conversation provided an ideal opportunity for Michael Strautmanis, a senior advisor to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and Kassie Lewis from the State of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development to sit down and gather tangible feedback about what the federal government can do to address the challenges often faced by small business owners. For more than an hour we engaged in a frank and practical discussion about the things that small business leaders feel are important, including access to capital, bonding, the need for an educated, skill-based workforce, and the support needed to export their goods to international markets.

Muslim-American and Arab-American Roundtable on the Economy 2

Michael Strautmanis (left), a senior advisor to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, talks with a Maryland business man, June 6, 2012.

In addition, Jerry Flavin, the Director of the Small Business Administration’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, gave attendees information about a number of programs this Administration has created that can be used to grow their businesses and create jobs. The SBA has long worked to address capital shortfalls faced by many as well as offering new products to pair with nonprofits in guaranteeing loans. He also spoke about other federal offices, including the Minority Business Development Agency and the HUBZone Program which provide incentives and support to help a small business grow in economically challenged neighborhoods.

We hope to continue this dialogue with other business leaders around the country that will specifically seek advice from entrepreneurs in the community. This was another tangible step forward in ensuring that the federal government’s engagement is both substantive and comprehensive. 

Paul Monteiro is an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement.