America’s Competitive Advantage—Small Businesses
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The U.S. Chamber this week is hosting a record-breaking crowd for its annual America’s Small Business Summit 2011. More than 600 small business owners have gathered in Washington to lobby their elected officials, share best practices, network with their peers, hear from some tremendous speakers, and get the latest on the legislative and regulatory developments impacting their companies.
Representing small businesses—which account for 96% of the U.S. Chamber’s membership—is a great honor. I believe that the dynamism and creativity of our small businesses are what set this country apart from its competitors. Our small businesses pay as little attention as possible to government. When they turn over a check, they put their own name on the back. They get up every day, and if they succeed, they win. If they fail, they have to start all over again. But that’s the strength of American free enterprise and the American economy.
Even with the many challenges facing our nation, small businesses are still out there getting the job done. They are taking risks, brainstorming new products and services, working hard, and making things happen. They are leading us out of this difficult economic time.
The most fundamental question facing America is whether we’re going to preserve and strengthen our free enterprise system that gives small businesses and entrepreneurs the freedom to dream big, take risks, and rise or fall on their own merits. We must always be a nation of makers, not takers. We’re moving in the wrong direction. Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960. Small businesses are the “makers” in our society, and we must do everything we can to help them succeed.
Many of our readers will be attending graduation ceremonies this month. They will no doubt hear speaker after speaker urge the graduates to eschew the lure of money and spend their lives in a more noble pursuit than business. What a terrible message to send to our youth. Being a small business owner—serving customers, creating jobs, and contributing to the well-being of your community—is an honorable profession. Businesses—and individuals—do good when they do well.
With a 9% unemployment rate, millions of workers idle or forced to work part time, and millions who have given up looking for a job, small businesses provide what the nation needs most—jobs. In fact, about two-thirds of all new jobs are created by small businesses.
There’s not a lot of glory in owning and operating a small business. The hours are long, the list of challenges even longer, and there are obstacles to overcome every single day. But the rewards are equally great—being your own boss, giving people the dignity of work, and, if you’re lucky, a tidy little profit.
For what’s often a thankless task, we have a simple message for America’s small business owners: Thank you for making America great.