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Kerry Opening Statement on Venture Capital Roundtable

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Kerry Opening Statement on Venture Capital Roundtable

Good morning. I thank you all for being here this morning to discuss reauthorization of the SBA's venture capital programs and the general state of access to venture capital for our country's small businesses.

I am proud to welcome from my state, Ed Tierney, the President of BISCO Environmental in Taunton, and Tom Gorman, the Managing Director of Seacoast Capital in Danvers. They are examples of a successful small business that got help through the SBA's SBIC program, and a successful SBIC fund.

We are also fortunate to have with us today examples of a successful New Markets Venture Capital fund and a company it has invested in -- Ray Moncrief, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation in London, Kentucky, and Greg Harmeyer, the President of Tier I Performance in Covington, Kentucky.

It is important to have these firms here today to explain how the SBA's programs have helped them and why we need to continue them. We often find that the return on investment is good for the American taxpayer.

Since the SBIC program's inception in 1958, almost 50 years ago, SBIC firms have invested $48 billion in more than 100,000 small businesses. For Fiscal Year 2006 alone, 30 percent of all SBIC investment dollars went to companies that had been in business for two years or less. Overall in that year, SBIC financing supported more than 2,000 small businesses which employed a total of 286,000 Americans.

Many extremely successful companies that received their start from SBIC financing are now household names: Intel, Federal Express, Jenny Craig, and Outback Steakhouse are all SBIC success stories. Companies receiving SBIC financing have also consistently appeared on a variety of prominent business lists, including Inc. 500, BusinessWeek's "Hot Growth Companies" and "Hot Growth Hall of Fame," Fortune magazine's "Best Companies to Work For" and "Most Admired Companies," and the FSB 100. And they provide tens of thousands of jobs and contribute significantly to our Federal and local tax bases, paying back the investment many times over.

Given the important contribution SBIC funds have made to our economy, Senator Snowe and I worked with many of you here to draft a bill to reauthorize the program for another three years, through 2010, ensuring the continued availability of this important small business financing tool. Beyond mere reauthorization, the legislation simplifies the program's regulations to attract new investors and allow existing investors to increase their involvement. We increase the leverage cap for small businesses owned by women and minorities as well as those located in low-income areas. And, finally, we have included a provision which ensures that SBICs licensed under the participating securities program will be able to easily make follow-up investments in successful companies. Unlike last year in our comprehensive SBA reauthorization bill, we have not attempted to restructure the SBIC participating securities program. As much as this type of straight equity investment is missing in the market for small firms, as we will hear from Dr. Sohl today, and I would like to see it re-instated, the political reality is that we cannot, in this environment, reason with the Office of Management and Budget to assess any version of an equity program fairly and give it a reasonable cost. So, we will focus on making the debenture program more user friendly and restoring confidence in the market that the program is here to stay and worth getting into.

Like the SBIC program, we can speak of important contributions from the New Markets Venture Capital program. Even though it is still in its infancy in many ways, as of March 31, 2006, there was very encouraging news. The six NMVC Companies currently licensed by the SBA had invested more than $26 million in 75 financings to more than 39 small businesses in low-income areas across the nation. These funds leveraged $136 million in additional investments from other sources, and created or maintained more than 1,600 jobs, in the areas where people have been suffering from chronic unemployment.

As Dr. Rubin will tell us today, without the SBA's program, this type of investment would be virtually non-existent. And we need to build on the good start we have. For that reason, Senator Snowe and I also introduced a bill this week to extend the NMVC program another three years, allowing it to start anywhere from 10 to 20 more funds. We make small but important changes to the program so that it is aligned with the New Markets Tax Credit program, as Congress intended, and its younger, but in some ways more advanced, sister program at the Department of Agriculture. These changes will make it easier to attract investors, and easier to attract interested fund managers, which will lead to more investments in the areas that need it. It will also allow flexibility in making investments in not only areas that need it but in companies that benefit those who live in very poor areas by creating jobs for them. Last, we have included some provisions to diversify the reach of new markets venture capital, so that it's available in more areas around the country, and maybe focus on small manufacturers. These ideas were proposed by my colleague in the House, Congresswoman Moore of Wisconsin, and I am happy we will consider them.

Because we have so little time, and so many important voices to hear from, let me now turn to Dr. Sohl and Dr. Sass Rubin to tell us about the state of venture capital for small businesses and the need for developmental venture capital.

I encourage you all to provide us with any changes to the bill today because we intend to markup these bills next Tuesday.


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