BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Hello, Buffalo! This is my first visit to western New York asPresident, and I am so happy to be here – especially sinceit’s not snowing like it was last Sunday. And I thoughtChicago was bad.
I’m also pleased that I could get out of Washington forthe day. I’ve been trying to make a habit of that once a weekor so. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a beautiful city. I getto live above the company store. Can’t beat the commute.It’s just that sometimes, all you hear in Washington is theclamor of politics. And that clamor can drown out the voices of theAmerican people. So I don’t want to make a big speech todaybecause I want to hear from you – your questions, yourconcerns, and your hopes.
But before I do, I just want to say a few words about the thingthat I know is front and center on everyone’s mind, and thatis the state of our economy.
I don’t need to tell all of you that we are still emergingfrom one of the worst recessions in history. It’s been tougheverywhere, but cities like Buffalo have been hit especially hard.Even before the most recent downturn began – years before– you were seeing jobs disappear and factories shut theirdoors. Your costs went up but your wages didn’t. And that istough on families and devastating to communities.
So breaking our economic free fall was job number one when Itook office. Remember, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Oureconomy was shrinking. And experts of all political stripes werewarning of another Great Depression. It wasn’t that long ago,but it’s easy to forget just how fragile things were. And wehad to take some steps that weren’t particularly popular.
Having just inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from the lastadministration, the last thing I wanted to do was spend money on arecovery package, or help the American auto industry keep its doorsopen, or prevent the collapse of the Wall Street banks whoseirresponsibility helped cause this crisis. But I knew that if wedidn’t act boldly and quickly – if we didn’t defythe politics of the moment and do what was necessary – wewould have risked an even greater disaster. If we simply gave in tothe partisan posturing in Washington – all the poll-takingand calculation that caused an entire party to sit on the sidelines– the same party that was in charge when this crisis unfolded– millions more Americans would lose their jobs, theirbusinesses, and their homes.
But Buffalo, I didn’t run for President to preside overdecline. I didn’t run for President to watch the erosion ofthe middle class continue. I ran for President to keep the AmericanDream alive in our time. So we met our responsibilities. We didwhat the moment required.
Now, I won’t stand here and pretend that we’veclimbed all the way out of this hole. I read too many letters eachnight from folks who are still hurting or out of work to believethat. You know, economists have all kinds of fancy formulas andmathematical equations to measure the exact moment the recessionended. And it’s great that the stock market has bounced back.But if you’re still looking for a job, it’s still arecession. If you can’t pay your bills or your mortgage,it’s still a recession. No matter what the economists say,it’s not a real recovery until people can feel it in theirown lives – until Americans who want work can find it; untilfamilies can afford to pay their bills and send their kids tocollege. That’s what we’re working for. That’sour goal.
But I can say this beyond a shadow of a doubt: Today, we areheading in the right direction. Those tough steps we took –they’re working. Despite all the naysayers – who werepredicting failure a year ago – our economy is growing again.Next month it will be stronger than last month. And next year willbe better than this year. Last month, we gained 290,000 jobs– the largest increase in four years and the fourth month ina row that we’ve added jobs. And last month also brought thelargest increase in manufacturing employment since 1998 – agood sign for companies like this one.
The question now is, how do we keep the momentum going? How dowe keep adding more and more jobs?
We know that government must play a role in meeting this goal– but we also know that its role is limited. That’sbecause government is not the true engine of job creation andeconomic growth in this country. Businesses are. Especially smallbusinesses like this one.
America’s small business owners – people like DaveSullivan – have always been the backbone of America’seconomy. These entrepreneurial pioneers embody the spirit ofpossibility, the tireless work ethic, and the simple hope forsomething better that lies at the heart of the American ideal.These are the men and women willing to take a chance on theirdream. They’ve got good ideas and the drive to followthrough. They’ve started the mom-and-pop stores and garagetinkering that have led to some of America’s biggest, mostsuccessful businesses. And they create most of the jobs that keepour workers employed. In fact, over the past decade and a half,America’s
small businesses have created 65% of all new jobsin this country.
The problem is, our small businesses have also been some of thehardest hit by this recession. From the middle of 2007 through theend of 2008, small businesses lost 2.4 million jobs. And becausebanks shrunk from lending in the midst of the financial crisis, ithas been difficult for entrepreneurs to take out the loans theyneed to start a business. For those who do own a small business,it’s been difficult to finance inventories, make payrolls, orexpand if things are going well.
Government can’t create jobs, but it can create theconditions for small businesses to grow and thrive and hire moreworkers. Government can’t guarantee a company’ssuccess, but it can knock down the barriers that prevent smallbusiness owners from getting loans or investing in the future. Andthat’s exactly what we’ve been doing.
When Dave wanted to expand this company last year, he received aloan from the Small Business Administration as part of the RecoveryAct. It’s a loan that allowed him to pay the bills andpurchase new equipment. Last fall, he was even able to increase hisworkforce. And today, he feels optimistic that he’ll be ableto hire more workers in the near future.
Bill Puglisi and his brother Rick are also here with us today.They run a small business called Imperial Textile. And thanks tothe SBA loan he received, they didn’t have to lay off anyworkers last year. In fact, they were even able to purchase a newbuilding. Today, they’re looking to hire again.
Across America, we’ve taken steps like these to helpcompanies grow and add jobs. Last year, we enacted seven tax cutsfor America’s small businesses, as well as the Making WorkPay tax credit that goes to the vast majority of small businessowners. So far, the Recovery Act has supported over 63,000 loans tosmall businesses – more than $26 billion in new lending. Morethan 1,200 banks and credit unions that had stopped issuing SBAloans when the financial crisis hit are lending again today. Andmore than $7.5 billion in federal Recovery Act contracts are nowgoing to small businesses.
Right now, a series of additional tax incentives and other stepsto promote hiring are taking effect. Because of a bill I signedinto law a few weeks ago, businesses are now eligible for tax cutsfor hiring unemployed workers. Companies are also able to write offmore of their investments in new equipment. And as part of healthreform, 4 million small businesses recently received a postcard intheir mailboxes telling them that they could be eligible for ahealth care tax cut this year. It’s worth perhaps tens ofthousands of dollars to a company. And it will provide welcomerelief to small business owners, who too often have to choosebetween health care and hiring.
All these steps have helped, and will help.
But I believe we need to do even more to give our smallbusinesses a boost. And maybe the single most important thing wecan do right now is to help insure that credit worthy smallbusiness owners can get the capital they need.
In my State of the Union address, I called for a $30 billionsmall business lending fund. This would help increase the flow ofcredit to small companies that were hit hard by the decline inlending that followed the financial crisis. Last week, I sentCongress this legislation, which now includes a new state smallbusiness credit initiative – an initiative that will helpexpand lending for small businesses and manufacturers at a timewhen budget shortfalls are leading states to cut back on vitallyimportant lending programs. I have also asked Congress to work withus to extend and enhance SBA programs that have helped smallbusiness owners get loans and create new jobs.
So this is our small business agenda. This is our jobs agenda. Ihear a lot of noise from some of our friends on the other side ofthe aisle that this is nothing more than “biggovernment.” But I don’t understand how giving tax cutsto businesses is big government. I don’t understand howhelping businesses get loans so they can grow and hire more workersis big government. I’m not interested in another old debateabout big government versus small government. I care about whethergovernment is meeting its responsibilities to the people itrepresents. I care about unleashing the great power of our economy,so Americans who are looking for work can find it. So I hope oursmall business agenda doesn’t fall victim to the samepartisan posturing we’ve seen over the last year. Helpingbusinesses create jobs should be something that both parties canagree on.
Since this company was founded more than a decade ago,you’ve done all that’s asked of Americans who hope topursue the dream of owning their own business – you’vetaken a risk on a good idea; you’ve worked hard for yoursuccess; and you’ve met your responsibilities to youremployees and your customers. And millions of small business ownersand workers across the country have met those sameresponsibilities. Now it’s time that responsibility and thatsuccess
are rewarded with the opportunity to keep growing, keephiring, and keep contributing to the success of your communitiesand your country. That’s the opportunity we’reproviding today, and that’s the opportunity I will continuefighting for as your President in the weeks and months ahead. Thankyou.
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