Small Business Owners Come to Capitol Hill to Discuss the Economy

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Entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries and areas of the country highlight economic challenges and potential solutions

It's time to provide small businesses with targeted assistance that will allow them to keep their doors open and help ensure a strong economy.

Small businesses have long been the drivers of this economy, creating 99% of all new jobs, and have historically led the nation out of past recessions. A panel of entrepreneurs today told the House Small Business Committee that the credit crunch and worsening overall economic conditions will weaken their ability to fill the traditional role as catalysts of recovery.

"It is critical in charting a course for recovery that we hear from Main Street businesses," said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Chair of the House Small Business Committee. "After all, these are the people struggling to keep their businesses open. They must be the focus of any solutions to turn this economy around."

Appearing before the Committee were a group of entrepreneurs from manufacturing, housing, retail and agriculture -- all industries dominated by small business owners. They testified that the current crisis is taking a toll on their firms, pushing many to the brink. This included Thomas Franke of Riemeier Lumber, a business that has been operating since 1925 and survived the Great Depression, but now is forced to close its doors on November 6th due to inability to secure capital.

"For a business that has been in existence for over 70 years and survived the Great Depression to be closing its doors after all these years is very telling about the challenges facing entrepreneurs," Chairwoman Velázquez said.

Witnesses underscored the findings of a report released today by the Committee, confirming that firms are facing difficult economic prospects and challenging credit conditions. With growth declining and capital elusive, entrepreneurs need immediate and targeted solutions. This includes expanding unemployment benefits, food stamps, funding for infrastructure projects, as well as incentives for business investment and entrepreneurial assistance.

"The Committee's report found that small firms face challenges both from the fallout in the financial markets, as well as from the decline in economic activity," Chairwoman Velázquez said. "It's time to provide small businesses with targeted assistance that will allow them to keep their doors open and help ensure a strong economy."

Expressing frustration and concern, the panelists stressed the resiliency of small firms. They assured that given the opportunity and the right tools, this nation's entrepreneurs stand ready to do their part in rebuilding the economy.

"So many times we've discussed the economy, unemployment rates and the deficit, but there is always a human face behind those numbers like the small businesses we heard from today," said Chairwoman Velázquez . "Any discussions about the best way to stimulate our economy must enable small firms to grow."

To see video of today's hearing, click here.

To read the report ''Small Business Economic Outlook: Assessing the Current Conditions and Challenges to Growth,'' click here.

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Duncan Neasham
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