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CBC Hour: Small Business Week

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CLARKE. Let me thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I'd like to thank my colleague, Mr. Horsford of Nevada, and my colleague and neighbor from Brooklyn, New York, the Honorable Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, for yielding their time and for their tremendous leadership, week in and week out, in providing a view into the Congressional Black Caucus perspective on the issues of the day.

Mr. Speaker, it has been nearly 5 years since our Nation experienced the worst financial calamity since the Great Depression. However, as our economy continues to recover, unemployment remains stubbornly high, sitting at 7.5 percent nationally, with unemployment at 13.2 percent and 9 percent, respectively, for African Americans and Latino Americans.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, I know the challenges facing our Nation's minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs, from access to capital, a problem for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses in the best of economic times, or a lack of access to knowledge and information of the available options to assist them.

I understand that we must--that we must work increasingly and unceasingly to ensure that, even as the media focuses on the booming stock market, that our Nation's real job creators are not forgotten, not marginalized and overlooked. Their success is vital, not only for a more robust recovery, but it is to fully addressing our Nation's national employment crisis.

Ironically enough, Mr. Speaker, this week is the 50th commemoration of National Small Business Week. It appears, though, that the Republican-led House is totally tone deaf to the millions of Americans still unable to find gainful employment, that not one of the bills before the House this week supports job creation, real job creation, nor do they rescind the harmful effects of the sequester, which, by almost every measure, has been clearly detrimental to our Nation's economy and is tantamount, it is tantamount to negligence.

In my capacity as a member of the Small Business Committee, I've worked with my colleagues to promote all small businesses, especially minority, women, and veteran-owned small businesses in my district and across the Nation as they try to navigate these self-imposed and manufactured uncertain economic times.

I am a strong supporter of the SCORE Program, which provides technical assistance necessary for small businesses in underserved communities to just get off the ground. I also work with the SBA and the SBA's Office of

Advocacy to ensure that all the firms that qualify for SBA contracting and capital access programs are provided an equal opportunity for participation.

Mr. Speaker, I have the honor and privilege of representing Brooklyn's Ninth Congressional District. My constituency includes an extremely large small business community with commerce corridors lined from block to block with small mom-and-pop businesses and storefronts.

This unique community provides the foundation of not only the economic but the unique social fabric of Brooklyn. We must build on this foundation in Brooklyn, New York, and across our great Nation.

Every day that the House majority focuses the people's time on issues that divide us is another day that our small businesses are treated as a subordinate concern. It is another day that our Nation's job-seekers spend time searching in vain, looking for the proverbial ``needle in the haystack,'' and another day that our Nation will have to wait for the engine that powers our economy to be firing on all cylinders.

Mr. Speaker, as our Nation celebrates National Small Business Week, I look forward to a genuine debate that addresses the totality of our Nation's small business communities, and not cherry-picking the low-hanging fruit.

I'd like to thank the Congressional Black Caucus, which, like myself, treats every week as Small Business Week, for focusing on this crucially important issue and for having me this evening.

In closing, I just want to share with you that, as we go through the immigration debate, we acknowledge that oftentimes in the Black community much of our entrepreneurial spirit is found in those entrepreneurs who have come to the United States and find a niche market where they can provide goods, services, and products to people from their homes of origin and, by extension, to the rest of the Nation.

I had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting a gentleman who immigrated to the United States from the island nation of Jamaica. One of the great delicacies, and they've actually become nationally renowned, it's called the beef patty. This gentleman's name is none other than Lowell Hawthorne, and he started with a small storefront in the Bronx, New York, and has now grown that storefront into a franchise opportunity that has made him, his family, and all those who have engaged very wealthy individuals, created job opportunities for hundreds of people and has provided one of the most delicious delicacies that one can ever taste.

Lowell Hawthorne is truly an entrepreneur who has availed himself of small business support from the SBA and has been able to grow his business. This is a success story that can be modeled and patterned after. We need to make sure that those entrepreneurs who have ideas that are innovative and that are creative get the support they need to continue to build this great country of ours.

I'd like to thank my colleague for anchoring this CBC Special Order.


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