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Remarks by

Donald L. Evans

U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Before the

Annual Small Business Person of the Year Luncheon

Washington, D.C.

May 8, 2001

Thank you, John for that generous introduction. It's an honor to be invited to speak at the Annual Small Business Person of the Year Luncheon. I want to begin by congratulating Leo and Susan and all who are being honored this week. Can I ask the winners to stand so we'll know where you are?

As you know, the news on the big winner will be announced by President Bush a little later this afternoon…so essentially, I'm a warm up act. But I believe I'm up to the task. My background is in business. And I'm a great believer in the free enterprise system.

Like you, I've had to meet payrolls, design business plans, sweat out uncertainties in the market and make sure that the bottom line had more black ink than red at the end of the year. As has the President.

I know…he and I went after the American Dream together in Midland, Texas, where we met and experienced the same highs and lows that all in business go through when building a future for their families and themselves.

Creating Wealth and Jobs

And one thing we both learned, this nation thrives on the vision, the energy, and the hard work of entrepreneurs like everyone here in this room. You are the heart of our free enterprise system. You generate 51 percent of the private sector GDP. You are responsible for 75 percent of all the net new jobs created in America. And it's your businesses that most often anchor neighborhoods -- and offer young people their first job opportunities.

Herbert Hoover once said that: "Our country has become the land of opportunity to those born without inheritance." I'm sure many here today can identify with this.

You are living examples of the American Dream come true, and we thank you for your hard work, your long hours and for making the sacrifices that are the underpinnings of successful entrepreneurship.

There's something else President Bush and I learned when we were both struggling to build businesses and that is…the best thing government can do is create the environment in which entrepreneurs do what they do best…produce jobs and wealth and grow into great companies.

We must never forget that since our founding days, we have been a nation of free people and free markets. The energies of decision makers in government must always be focused on providing the opportunities and the incentives to encourage you in business to innovate and succeed. You're the ones who build this nation…not government.

How do we accomplish this? We need to get rid of unnecessary regulations; cut taxes and make sure the conditions are right for the most effective deployment of capital. We have to provide you with a government you can trust to do exactly what it says it will do…and one that will not pick winners and losers in our economy.

Underpinnings of Bush Administration

Believe me, that isn't going to be a problem with this administration. I'm proud to be working with a President who the American people and the world can trust…who will deliver what he promises and won't mince words. When President Bush says, "Yes," he means, "Yes." And when he says "No," he means "No." I'm not promising you'll always like what he says, but you'll always get a straight story from this President.

And you have a President who has considered all sides of every issue. He'll sit down with people…he'll discuss differences and entertain a wide range of suggestions on policy matters…as will I. This administration has rejected the "zero sum game" mentality. That's the mentality that says for me to win, you have to lose. It's wrong and counterproductive. Under the President's leadership we've adopted the attitude that no one wins unless we all win.

It's this rejection of the "I win, you lose" approach to government…as well as the trust and certainty I can promise you from the President that makes me proud to serve in this administration and serve the American people.

Building a Future for the American People

We've been in office a little more than 100 days - and unlike inaugural weekend when I wanted to show my son where I was going to be working, and the guards wouldn't let me into the Commerce Building - I can get in now.

A hundred days is a relatively short period of time - as those of you who plan years out know - but it's time enough to gauge trends…as you also know. And what you're seeing from the Bush Administration is a determination to build a strong foundation for long-term economic growth.

President Bush has offered a comprehensive program that we believe will give us a society in which every American has a stake. That means, first and foremost, allowing everyone to reap the benefits of their labor and their investment.

What this program amounts to is getting the economic fundamentals right. The President is investing in the future of the American people. For example, his proposed education reforms will better prepare our children for the economy of the future; his tax reforms will allow America's workers to keep more of what they earn and make their own choices about how they should invest their income; and the Medicare and Social Security reforms will provide a secure retirement for those who have already made their contributions to our economic well-being.

And we also see this type of vision and long term planning in our emerging energy program. As we heard from Vice President Cheney the other day, we have a big problem when it comes to the costs and supplies of energy. Costs are high and getting higher and energy supplies aren't at the levels we need. We have to develop solutions to the energy crunch…including finding alternative sources, creating more effective conservation programs and devising other approaches. We can't let this situation fester any longer. We have to see what's been in front of us for a long time and work together to find solutions.

I look forward to swift action on the President's programs. We are already seeing that on the tax package…and all of us in the administration stand ready to work with Congress to get the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Bush Trade Policy

Now, I'd like to turn to an area that is becoming more and more important to you in small business…an area of particular focus at the Commerce Department...an area that has been contributing more and more to the economic growth of this nation. I'm referring to trade and your role in the global marketplace.

I expect that some in this room have an export story to tell. One report I saw recently said that over 95 percent of all U.S. exporting businesses are small. The number of small businesses entering foreign markets tripled between 1990 and 2000, and - thanks in part to the Internet and e-commerce - the value of small business exports increased 300 percent over the past five years.

To provide new opportunities for these and other American firms, President Bush has made trade and open markets a centerpiece in his policy agenda. In his words, "Trade spurs innovation; trade creates jobs; trade will bring prosperity."

Economic growth is, of course, a driving force for liberalizing markets. Tearing down barriers to trade and commerce for goods, services and capital promises a higher standard of living for all of us here at home and our neighbors abroad. But there must be more to it and there is. It's about more than wealth and physical comfort; it's about a higher quality of life. Free and open trade is an important foundation for democracy, social freedom and political stability in our hemisphere and around the world.

In liberalizing trade agreements, we are recognizing that the genius of the free enterprise system relies on and encourages human freedom. Free men and women conducting their business in free markets can pursue their economic destinies and go as far as their dreams, talents and initiative take them. Here in our country we call it the American Dream but it has significance whether you're living in Midland, Texas; Santiago, Chile; or Gaborone, Botswana.

In the United States we have come to respect and trust the relationship between economic development and human freedom. Government programs can't create that trust. It comes from personal experience and opportunity in a free enterprise system.

What government can do is create the environment for people to succeed. To give them the freedom to use their God-given talents to develop a sense of pride and hope. This encourages them to build better futures for their families, their communities and themselves.

As improvements in the quality of life evolve, we see people raised out of poverty…and enjoying the richness of life. This includes better health care, better education and a better environment.

The spirit of hope is raised with this progress and we'll see the evolution of even better and more responsible government. This momentum for improvement will then build on itself as people come to understand the responsibilities that arrive with freedom. They will understand that these responsibilities call for them to promote the conditions of freedom for themselves and their fellow man.

As President Bush said, "When people get a taste of freedom in the marketplace, they tend to demand other freedoms in their societies."


Let me wind up by saying that all of us in the Bush administration are proud of your accomplishments and contributions. We thank you. And we would welcome the opportunity to work with you to provide the environment in which you can grow your businesses.

At the Commerce Department, we have export assistance centers where we partner with our friends at SBA, the Export-Import Bank and state and local agencies to guide smaller companies through every stage of the exporting process.

Our U.S. Commercial Service has Web sites that expand the reach of these programs right to your desktop. USATrade.gov provides you with access to our export assistance programs available at the Department's network of 105 Export Assistance Centers nationwide and 160 plus in 80 countries around the world. Our soon to be launched BuyUSA.com is the Commercial Service's E-Marketplace and will focus initially on business to business matchmaking.

We also have Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers throughout the country to help small manufacturers address their critical and unique needs. We have a network of offices to provide minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs with marketing, management and technical assistance. And our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization is committed to fostering diversity in business.

We invite your participation and look forward to working with you. Your success - and the success of small businesses throughout the nation - is important not only to your family and community, but also to the well being of our country.

Again, my sincere congratulations to each and every SBA winner.

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you this afternoon.





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