Small Business Roundtable

August 17, 2010 | 7:53 | Public Domain

President Obama calls on a partisan minority in the Senate to stop obstructing a bill that will provide small businesses with tax credits and better access to loans after participating in a roundtable discussion with local business owners in Seattle, WA.

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Remarks by the President After Roundtable With Local Business Leaders in Seattle, Washington

 12:20 P.M. PDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Hello, everybody.  I just sat down here at Grand Central Bakery with the Secretary of Commerce and the former governor of this great state, Gary Locke; the wonderful senior senator from the great state of Washington, Patty Murray; as well as these three terrific small business owners for a good discussion about the challenges that our small businesses face in this very tough economy. 

     And I have to say before we start, I also had a sandwich, a turkey sandwich here that was outstanding.  So if you guys need to eat before we leave, try it out.

Gillian Allen-White and the founders of this bakery like to say that they built this business just like they bake everything –- from scratch.  What began as a little sandwich shop right here in this building nearly 40 years ago is today eight cafés in Seattle and Portland that employ 250 people, and they are going to open their ninth café on Friday, which we’re very excited about.

     Tiffany Turner and her husband Brady gave up their careers in teaching and insurance to open their own inn on the coast.  And despite the recession, business has been good.  They’re even looking to expand and hire new employees.  For a time, their community bank couldn’t give them the loan they needed to grow, but recently that changed.  In fact, many banks like theirs have begun to open the flow of credit to small businesses for the first time in four years, and that’s good news.

     Joe -- I’m going to make sure I get this right -- Fugere --

     MR. FUGERE:  Fugere.

     THE PRESIDENT:   Fugere -- see, I thought I had it right -- put everything on the line -– his savings, his 401(k), even a second mortgage -– to open his first pizzeria.  With a little hard work, it succeeded.  And he opened two more.  After the crisis hit, he sought a loan to open a fourth because business was good.  But at bank after bank, Joe heard “no.”  The same big banks whose reckless actions nearly brought down the economy told Joe that loaning money to a restaurant -– even one as successful as his -– was “too risky.”  Finally, a community bank invested in Joe, and his fourth restaurant has been his most successful opening yet.  And recently, an SBA loan under the Recovery Act helped him to improve his cash flow.

     Stories like this are at the core of the American experience.  This has always been a country where anyone with a good idea and the guts to see it through can succeed.  It’s what gives a worker the courage to leave her job to become her own boss, or somebody with a dream to risk it all on a great idea.  But these are tough times for a lot of small business owners.  The financial crisis has made it particularly difficult for them to get the loans they need to grow.  The recession has meant that folks are spending less.  And across the country, many small businesses that were once the beating heart of the community are now empty storefronts haunting our main streets.

     So we’ve all got a stake in helping our small businesses succeed.  And because small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in this country, our economic recovery depends on it.

     And that’s why, when I took office, we put in place an economic plan to help small businesses.  And Patty Murray was there every step of the way in us putting forward these initiatives.  At its heart was a simple idea:  While government can’t guarantee their success, government can knock down the barriers that stand in the way and help create the conditions to help small businesses grow and to hire. 

     And that’s why we’ve passed eight tax cuts for America’s small businesses.  Tax cuts for hiring unemployed workers.  Tax cuts for investing in new equipment.  As part of health insurance reform, 4 million small business owners recently received a postcard in their mailboxes telling them that they could be eligible for a health care tax credit worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars.  And I know that Tiffany and her husband are looking now about the possibility, because of these incentives, to be able to maybe provide health insurance to their workers.  Under the Recovery Act, we supported nearly 700 -- nearly 70,000 new loans to small businesses like Joe’s, and we waived fees on new SBA loans so people like Joe save money -- up to $20,000 with the SBA arrangement that Joe had.

     These steps and others are making some difference.  But when you listen to these three business owners and you talk to small business owners across the country, it’s clear that we’ve got to do more.  And that’s why I’m urging the Senate once again to approve a jobs bill that will do two big things for small businesses:  cut more taxes and make available more loans.  That’s what folks like the three people standing behind me say would be helpful.  That’s what I’ve heard from small business owners across America.

     Joe and Tiffany could tell you firsthand just how critical community banks are to helping small businesses grow and create jobs.  Well, this bill will help those banks access more capital so they can offer more small businesses the loans that they need.  It will make sure we continue to waive some of the fees for SBA-backed loans.  It will increase deductions small businesses can take for new equipment and other expenses.  And it will finally do what I’ve championed since I ran for President, and that’s eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses.

     The bottom line is this:  America’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstones of our communities. The folks who own them work hard, meet their responsibilities -- as Gillian pointed out, nobody here is getting too fat and happy; everybody here is operating on very lean margins, and they are constantly thinking about their employees and their obligations and responsibilities to them.  So in the same way that they’re looking out for their employees, we need to be looking out for these small businesses.  They are who this bill is for.  They will see the positive benefits right away. 

     Now, unfortunately, a partisan minority in the Senate has been standing in the way of giving our small businesspeople a simple up-or-down vote on this bill.  They won’t even let it go to vote.  And every day this obstruction goes on is another day a small business somewhere in the country can’t get a loan or can’t get the tax cuts that it needs to grow and to hire. 

     I think Patty would agree with me when I say there will be plenty of time between now and November to play politics, but the small business owners beside me and around the country don’t have time for political games.  They’re not interested in what’s best for a political party.  They’re interested in what’s best for their employees and their communities and for the country. 

     So when Congress reconvenes, this jobs bill will be the first business out of the gate, and I ask Senate Republicans to drop their efforts to block it.  I believe we can work together to get this done for the folks standing beside me, and for small businesses, their employees, and communities that depend on them all across the country.

     Thank you very much, everybody.

                                                                 END                12:28 P.M. PDT

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