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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Small Business Person of the Year Award


Well, thank you all, and welcome to the White House. I'm sorry about the delays getting some of you all in here. But good news -- you don't have to show a picture to get out of this madhouse, I've discovered. [Laughter]

It's good to see Secretary Mosbacher here, doing an outstanding job as our Secretary of Commerce. And I am very, very proud of him. And the same can be said for Susan Engeleiter, who is heading up the SBA and also keeping the focus where it belongs.

You know, the people that are gathered here come from 50 States and beyond, hometown heroes who are leading America into the 21st century, as the theme for this Small Business Week proclaims. And today marks a wonderful occasion not only for them but also for our nation and our future.

Small business is the backbone of the U.S. economy, creating two out of every three new jobs, employing half the private work force, accounting for 40 percent of America's total gross national product. And it's one of the reasons Americans are enjoying this longest era of peacetime growth in the history of our country. But, of course, the magic of small business is not in the power of its numbers but in the power of its dreams, of its aspirations.

And each of your businesses began as the dream of one man or one woman and soon became a dream for many others. And I look at people like Phyllis Apelbaum, one of today's finalists, whose messenger service in Chicago provides jobs for over a hundred people in transitional neighborhoods. Every job you create can mean another family with a future, another family with hope, another family with a chance for the American dream.

And as a former small business person, I know firsthand the struggles of entrepreneurs and growing businesses, the combination of adrenaline and anxiety, the adversity and the adventures that fills your days.

Iowa's Barney Roberts started his empire out of his basement. David Mathews began his ironworks on an Arkansas mountaintop without electricity or running water. Oatmeal Studios Greeting Cards were launched at a place called the Frog Hollow Craft Center. And Phyllis slept on the floor and was told no 17 times before her messenger business was licensed. By her own description, she broke the logjam when she walked into the commissioner's office -- and I quote -- ``screamed like a fish seller on Maxwell Street.'' [Laughter] I don't know where Maxwell Street might be, but I can tell you, I can just picture it. [Laughter] Phyllis, don't do it here, okay? [Laughter]

All four are American success stories. All four know that no nation ever drowned in sweat. And all four know that good citizenship is good business, reaching out from their communities to the homeless and the Special Olympics and others.

Their rules are simple and they make sense. ``People are our best assets,'' says Barney, ``take care of them and they won't leave.'' And Phyllis says, ``You have to love what you're doing.'' And David's time-proven formula for success needs just three words: ``Never sacrifice quality.'' And Oatmeal Greeting Cards' Joe Massimino describes their brand of humor as ``Not corny, not punny, not bizarre, not offensive.''

I'm not the first President to recognize and appreciate the importance of smaller companies. And today is Harry Truman's birthday, and as always, he told it like it is. He said: ``You don't have a prosperous country unless the little man -- the farmer, the worker, the small businessman -- is well-off. And when the little man prospers, big business gets along just fine.''

Well, that's why one of my priorities after assuming the office was to develop Federal policies that promote and support this vital sector of our economy. We're revitalizing -- thanks to Susan -- the Small Business Administration. We're working to ensure the interests and concerns of small business are made part and parcel of efforts such as Federal contract procurement. And we need your support on one of this year's top legislative priorities. And of course, I'm talking on a tax cut on capital gains. Especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs, it will attract start-up capital, provide more long-term investment, create new jobs, and help level a playing field with our trading partners overseas, some of whom don't tax capital gains at all.

The strength of America lies with those who are willing to take a chance in small business and build for the future. And it's here you find the determination and the ingenuity and the vision that have created the enterprises which drive our economy and enrich our lives. It is around small businesses that you find communities growing and prospering. It is here where women and minorities make their mark as business owners. It is here where you find so many of the Thousand Points of Light that are aiding those in need all across the country. We can take pride in the fact that nations around the world are using small business in the United States as a model for economic growth. So, small business is America at its best. And it's a pleasure for me to recognize those who have excelled in this vital field of endeavor.

Congratulations! Thanks, and I'm delighted you all came to the White House. And now I'll turn the podium over to Susan Engeleiter to present today's awards. Thank you all very, very much.

Note. The President spoke at 2:15 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.

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