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Public Statements

CBC Hour: Small Business Week

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank my colleagues who have gathered here today and tonight.

Thank you, Congressman Jeffries again for the combined leadership of yourself, Mr. Horsford from Nevada, and, of course, my dear, dear friend, Congressman Don Payne, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and I know that the gentlelady from Ohio was also contributing this evening, and I certainly thank her for her leadership.

I am very pleased to be able to stand here and honor a group that I, frankly, believe are the anchor of the economy for the United States of America, and that is small businesses. We look at the landscape of American history. We did not start with multinationals and international corporations. We really started with mom-and-pop businesses, whether it is, in fact, when we were told in the historical concept to go West young man and woman, and those from the 13 Colonies originally as they moved from the east coast to explore the West as far as California. In those pioneering towns, you had to have small businesses.

Then, of course, if we speak about the history of our community, first coming to this Nation as slaves and then developing artisan skills in the spirit of Booker T. Washington, being carpenters, painters, and bricklayers. If you will look at the history of the South, many of the African Americans, this was their business, along with funeral homes and along with restaurants.

I remember the aunt of my husband. It was one of our special treats to be able to go down to Aunt Frances' location in Alabama. Her store was near Alabama State, and it was the place to go. It was also a little hotel, and there was no doubt that Aunt Frances could cook, but she turned it into a business. And the students knew that that was a place that was a comfort to them, that good meals could be gotten for reasonable prices. Those were small businesses in the African American community.

Frankly, I believe that we have not done well by them. We have not done well by minority businesses overall, by women-owned businesses. Yes, there are some moments of success that I will recount in just a moment, but in terms of the Federal Government really putting elbow grease to the idea of outreach to minority businesses, they can do better. Yes, we have the Small Business Administration and there are many instances of outreach, but let me share with you how we could do better.

First of all, we can eliminate the sequestration. We can put on the floor H.R. 900, which is legislation that many of us have signed, led by John Conyers. I'm an original cosponsor among many others. Eliminate the sequestration. It is killing us. Frankly, it is killing small businesses. It is killing the opportunities for small businesses in terms of small businesses who do a small amount of business with the Federal Government. All of that is being cut.

We can also fix the Internal Revenue Service because I will tell you, Mr. Jeffries, if you poll any of your small businesses, any of those S corporations or any of those mom-and-pops or any of those individuals who have businesses in their name, I can assure you that there is a difficult situation with IRS audits. They seem to find small businesses, and they seem to find minority businesses. And so I think, as a Congress, we want fairness. We certainly want the IRS, that has a lot of hardworking workers--we have just found out that they targeted liberal groups as well as others. We want them to find a sort of the right space to be able to allow our small businesses to not suffocate but to grow and to work with them in what we call offer in compromise. So I think we need to fix the IRS.

Certainly, we need to fix the whole issue of credit scoring, allowing small businesses to access, if you will, the right kind of credit. If they can get credit, then they can grow. I would imagine that if this whole place was filled up with small businesses and I asked them, the colleagues that are in this room, it was all filled up with small businesses, asked them to raise their hand about access to credit or this whole issue of credit scoring--and we in the Federal Government can do better. We can do better with a fixed tax system that respects the growth of small businesses to allow them to grow their business and give them the kind of tax incentives that would be helpful.

Let me also say, as I bring my remarks to a close, and I want to say to Congresswoman Clarke, who is already on the floor--she knows now that I'm going to have to cite some of my businesses that have come and made great opportunities for workers. But let me just say that we need to be able to--how should I say it?--encourage, encourage all these government agencies.

Do you know how much the General Services Administration buys and how much they build? All of these agencies, every single bill that comes through here, we should work with our Republican colleagues, who believe in small businesses, to be able to add amendments that deal with the outreach to minority, women, and small businesses. That's what we're missing. They're intimidated by doing business with the Federal Government.

The General Service Administration is one of the worst offenders. They spend money on building buildings. They spend money on buying buildings, and their MWBD record is horrific. And what they say is they don't have a provision that incentivizes them, or there's no provision in their structure that causes them to move forward on MWBD.

We've got to do something about that. Maybe we can collectively do it as a Congressional Black Caucus to be able to address the question of an agency that buys everything and builds everything for the Federal Government, and they don't have an incentive.

Just last week I put an amendment on the defense authorization. I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans for being supportive. I look forward to working with them again in the agriculture bill.

But finally what I would say is that I am grateful that we are highlighting small businesses today, and I hope that I've listed a few items that we will hear from small businesses about, that we can hear your voices tell us how we can help you better, either with the IRS, with sequestration, with the outreach in the Small Business Administration or working with the General Services Administration so that you have more opportunity to participate as a small business.

Now let me cite a few of my businesses, as I go to my seat, in Texas. I want to celebrate Frenchy's, the Creuzot family, that has been in the chicken frying business for 50 years plus. Yes, I have a great excitement that they have taken that business and they are in the marketing business of making food products that they are selling to grocery stores. They've grown from being that place where the students from Texas Southern University would go and the rest of us would go by expanding. They have kept people hired for 50 years. Their father has gone on to glory, their mother is still alive, but the children have kept it alive. I want to salute them because it is a business of the family. They came from Louisiana, made their way over in this direction.

I want to salute Kase Lawal and CAMAC as one of the only standing energy companies owned by an African American in the United States, along with Osyka, owned by Michael Harness, and a pipeline company, Milton Carroll, who's had Precision Instruments for a number of years that was in the oil drilling business. I want to salute them.

I want to salute Cool Runnings, my first visit to them, a Jamaican restaurant. They have taken their business and grown it--in Houston, Texas by the way. To be able to have a restaurant and a takeout business is great. I want to salute the Houston Black Expo, because they are having their big event on June 21 and businesses all over Houston will be benefiting from Mr. Love's great effort in the Houston Black Expo.

Finally, I want to conclude by saying that small businesses are in fact the backbone of America. I know that there will be a great opportunity for us to expand on that.

Let me close by thanking you, Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Horsford, thank you so very much for highlighting what is truly the infrastructure of jobs in America, small businesses and minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses. Thank you for your courtesy.


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