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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Hector V. Barreto
Hector V. Barreto
Small Business Administration Administrator
In Focus: Small Business In Focus: Small Business

October 27, 2004

Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us today. We have Small Business Administration Administrator Hector Barreto here today to field your questions.

Hector V. Barreto

Tom, from Edmond, OK writes:
What is the easiest way for a man or woman to start his or her own small business.

Hector V. Barreto
Well, we’d like them to call SBA. You can reach us on our web site at You can get information on your closet district office is. We have district offices in every state. We have one in Edmond, Oklahoma. We also have lots of resource providers that can also help you.

You can also call us at 1800 U ASK SBA. We can answer your questions on the phone and we can send you a small business start up kit. Small businesses need the same thing that all businesses need. You need capital, technical assistance, contract opportunities, etc.

The SBA can help you in all these opportunities. Good luck.

Kimberly, from Portales, New Mexico writes:
If you own a small business, then what hardships are we likely to face if President Bush is reelected? Is is going to get harder?

Hector V. Barreto
No, Kimberly – it is going to get easier because the President is committed to small business. He understands that small business is the engine that fuels the economy.

His small business agenda deals with the key areas where small businesses are being challenged. For example on tax relief, under this President we’ve returned $75 billion back to small businesses that they can use to reinvest in their business.

We’ve also made it easier to comply with federal regulations. Under this administration we’ve saved small businesses $31 billion on regulatory costs.

We are also making it easier for small business to gain access to health care. This year we approved Health Savings Accounts which allows small businesses to save money on a tax free basis to pay for their medical costs.

But we are also fighting for association health plans to allow small businesses to pool together to negotiate better rates and better benefits from those insurance carriers.

We are also working on making sure there are less frivolous lawsuits. We are working with Congress on tort reform. We’re working with Congress on a new energy policy. Unfortunately that energy policy is stuck in the Senate and so we need the new Congress to work with the President so we can get this energy policy approved.

And also we are working on international trade opportunities. The President understands that 97 percent of all businesses that do trade are small businesses but they only represent 30 percent of all the trade dollars, so there is a great opportunity there.

These are all part of the President’s small business agenda. ON top of that, the SBA under this President, has made more loans to small businesses than any time in history. This year we’ve facilitated $20 billion in capital for small businesses. We are training more small businesses – we’ve trained over 2.1 million small businesses. And we are helping small businesses get more government contracts. Last year, the federal government bought $65.5 billion in goods and services.

So there has never been a better time to be in small business and under this President’s administration we will continue to be a strong partner to all small businesses.

Phyllis, from Las Vegas, Nv writes:
My granddaughter will be 16 years old next summer..She wants to start her own business (Making doggie treats (and other animal items for sale)also dog-washing).. Is there any help (i.e. grants) for teen entrepeneurs like her? Is there anyone we can contact? She lives in Clinton, Utah...Thank you very much.

Hector V. Barreto
Well, we’d like her to visit our web site at . It provides a lot of information, lots of great tips on how to start your own small business. You can contact our office in Utah. If you don’t know where that is, just go to our web site and she can get the contact information. Or she can call 1 800 U ASK SBA.

We have more young people starting small businesses than ever before. In fact, our entrepreneurial development department is doing a lot of work with youth and doing an academy for young entrepreneurs.

So I think there are a lot of opportunities. It is never too early to start. I started working in my parent’s small business when I was 9 years old. Young people have a lot to contribute and we wish your granddaughter the best of luck.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
I always hear the term small business. What determines a small business from a large business. Is it the number of employees or monetary. How does the government determine small from large?

Hector V. Barreto
We believe that 99 percent of all businesses in the US qualify as a small business. And both of those areas you mentioned are ways to determine a small business.

Mostly it is companies that have 500 or less employees employed. However, there is a revenue size standard if the company wants to do business with the federal government. Usually that averages between five and six million dollars per year in revenues. Now most companies – 99 percent of those – are underneath that.

So again 99 percent of all businesses are considered a small business by our definition. We have an office of size standards and again you can go online and check out the office of size standards – it deals with those kinds of questions.

Again, most companies in the US are small businesses.

JODY, from pennsylvania writes:

Hector V. Barreto
Well Jody, good luck to you and congratulations on starting your own business. SBA has lots of different programs. In fact, we are doing more small loans than ever before. Last year, we did 24,000 loans under $35,000 in a program called SBA Express.

I’d like you to contact your local SBA in Pennsylvania. We have several offices there. We have one in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg. You can go online as well at or call us at 1 800 U ASK SBA.

My family started a restaurant business so I understand this very well. We can help with training, we can help as well with financing of all sizes. If you have bad credit, our resource providers can help you perfect your credit.

We also have a surface corps of retired executives. These are volunteers who are very experienced executives that can help and many of them have experience in the restaurant business. So good luck to you!

elic, from rosemead california writes:
I am graduate student of Cal Poly, Pomona. My major is MSBA, IT auditing. Recently, I am doing business research project on "information security for small businesses." I like to ask a one quesiton. Does the government have ever do information securtiy survey for small businesses?

Hector V. Barreto
You know, I’m not sure. I think the best thing to do is to contact our CIO’s office. You can call into the SBA and we can help direct you. I know a lot of the different departments and agencies are doing a lot of research.

I know of one other department that we have. The Department of Advocacy at the SBA. They do a lot of research as well. And they may be doing things on information security for small businesses. As well as the Homeland Security Department which has its own small business department inside of Homeland Security.

Good luck with your research and I hope you are able to find the information you are seeking and again please don’t hesitate to call us at the SBA and we’ll try to put you in contact with someone who can help you.

Kim, from Chicago writes:
I see big business swallowing up opportunities for small business to get started let alone thrive on every street corner where identical strip malls running north and south domenate. What plans does the Bush Administration have to aid people to want to start small business in these difficult times?

Hector V. Barreto
Well, the good news is that there are more small businesses starting up than any other time, Kim. IN fact there are 25 million small businesses in the US. We believe that over 600,000 small businesses started up last year. We are helping more small businesses than ever before.

I mentioned all the small business loans we are doing. But we are also getting a lot of calls from individuals who want to start up a small business. And again, we help many, many start up businesses.

So there are a lot of tools. A lot of times small businesses just don’t know what they don’t know. I think small businesses have an advantage over some of those big businesses. They can move quicker, often times they have service and inventory that big businesses don’t have.

Just because you are a small business doesn’t mean you can’t compete on some level with a big business. It may not be on price, but it may be on service, on speed, on the familiarity of a particular area or product line.

So I think there are a lot of opportunities for small businesses. They are really the backbone of the economy. They produce 52 percent of the gross output of the economy and they create 75 percent of the net new jobs. So there is nothing small about small business to our economy.

Fatmir, from vancouver writes:
r:Barreto and U.S citizens I just want you to know haw lucky you are to live in U.S.A country of freedoms and oportunities.

small business, big bussinesman, regular fellas and you all stand for your country, the world is living in dangerous times, we need AMERICA to lead in the freedom way, we need a man like George Bush to keep as safe and secure.

God bless U.S.A

Hector V. Barreto
Well thank you Fatmir. I agree with you. As I travel around the country and the world, I always hear people say how lucky we are here in the United States where we value freedom, where we value opportunity. Where it doesn’t matter where you start.

And we are very fortunate. In the U.S., the small business community really is the driving force of our economy as I mentioned before.

Thank you for your generous words. We appreciate it. At the SBA we are going to continue working very hard to make sure to develop all the opportunities for anyone in small business or thinking about starting a small business.

Maurice, from Arlington, VA writes:
There has been lots of media coverage about big business tax breaks, out-sourcing tax breaks, etc, but what advancements has the administration made toward helping small businesses save money and succeed (the mom and pop shops, or small local IT firm)? I want to start a small business and have been getting information from, is this the best place to go or can you recommend some other information pools as well?

Hector V. Barreto
First of all congratulations and thanks for coming to You know we have a lot of links on . there is also another web site you should be aware of. It is a government wide web site that allows you to tap into the information from all the different departments and agencies that a small business needs. So I recommend that you go to that web site as well.

With regards to tax breaks, the President and Congress worked together on the Jobs and Growth package. That package lowered the marginal tax rate for all small businesses. We believe that 25 million businesses got an average tax break of about $3,000 and that includes the quadrupling of the business deduction. We quadrupled the business deduction from $25,000 to $100,000 so a lot more small businesses can buy product and inventory and create help new jobs.

This is one of the things that we really believe helped turn the economy around Maurice. I was in Arlington, Virginia with the President last year and a company there that made flags said to the President that they were getting a lot more orders for flags but they were just a little bit uncertain about the economy and needed an incentive. That Jobs and Growth package really provided them that incentive and that’s what the President told the small business owner.

The small business owner said “If that goes through I’ll buy two more sewing machines and hire three more people.” And that’s exactly what’s happening millions of times over across the country.

Maurice, thanks a lot. Good luck to you. I hope you continue to reach out to SBA for assistance and the tools you need to be successful.

clark, from arysville oh. writes:
Mr. Barreto, First off let me I'm a registered voter and Republican, also a small bus. owner an independent owneroperator truck driver. My question has to do with the higher cost of deisel fuel. I'm really having a hard time understanding why a product so vital to our country's economic recovery, a by-product of unleaded, is out pricing reg. unleaded by .20 cents a gal. Let alone it being $2.28 a gallon We independents can't afford any more of an increase, so Mr. Barreto I'm asking that if you can pass this bit of info. on to President Bush I would apprieciate it. Eliminatereduce the Fed. fuel tax on deisel and ask the States to follow suit, this would help ease the burden of us who keep the Nation moving because without trucks America stops. GO GET HIM GEORGE

Hector V. Barreto
Thanks a lot Clark. I agree with you. The President has been working hard on this. His energy bill has been stalled in the Senate. This energy bill will help lower cost the fuel, it will help with additional energy exploration, it will help with conservation. We need that energy bill now.

He will sign it if Congress finishes their work on it. We are very helpful that in the next Congress we will be able to get this bill passed. I appreciate everything you do for our economy. I agree with you, we need to keep our trucks moving. Small business and all business depend on you. Thank you. I wish you the best luck.

Tracy, from McClure Ohio writes:
Why are Owners of tractor trailers being charged large amounts of taxes for everything. We pay taxes on fuel we already bought then ohio puts a mileage tax on top of it. then we pay a heavy highway tax then we pay anywhere from 900.00 to 3000.00 dollars for plates.we pay large insurance policies mine alone is up to 5000.00 dollars a year. then I have to pay for mine own health insurance that increases every year. But if we raise the rates we are the bad people. So how am I suppose to survive when the president does not even act as if this group of people exist. Fuel is up to 2.27 a gallon please explain how Im suppose to make it.

Hector V. Barreto
The President has an energy bill that he has worked hard on but Congress is stalling again. Congress has not passed it. As you know, the President can make these kinds of proposals, but it is Congress that makes the law that the President will eventually sign. The President knows that small business is the engine that fuels the economy and we are doing everything we can to create the environment so businesses can succeed.

The President says it best when he says the role of government is not to create wealth but the role of government is to create an environment where entrepreneurs are willing to take a risk, where entrepreneurs are willing to risk their capital, where entrepreneurs are allowed to achieve their dreams. That’s the role of government. That is what we are doing.

Never before has small business received as much tax relief, regulatory relief, access to health care, we are fighting for tort reform, we are fighting for energy and reliability and we are fighting to open up new markets for small business.

Paul, from Las Vegas writes:
The 179 tax credits have made the difference of whether or not my company has been able to survive, will this program continue to be available to small businesses in the future?

Thank you for your time.

Hector V. Barreto
We agree that we need to incentive small business and that’s why the President has worked with Congress three times to lower the tax exposure and burden on small businesses. Because the President understands small businesses in many cases pay higher taxes than larger corporations. And most small businesses are not incorporated.

In fact, recently the President asked Congress to extend the tax provisions and they were able to do that for the next few years. But this is something that we need to work on all the time to keep the tax burden low on small businesses because then they will continue to grow and to create jobs and to contribute to the economy.

Michael, from Riverview, FL writes:
When does the administration predict that the economy will be better suited for small businesses and does the administration have plans to relieve those small businesses (which are mainly family owned) that have nearly lost everything to higher rates?

Hector V. Barreto
Well, Michael, as I mentioned before the economy is getting better and it is getting better because of small businesses. The unemployment rate is down to 5.4 percent and that is very important. In fact over the last 13 months we’ve created almost 2 million new jobs and that doesn’t include that a lot of the small businesses are creating which again are really the engine that fuels the economy.

I’ve been very pleased with some of the numbers coming out of Florida. The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent and in Florida it is down to 4.5 percent. So it is almost a point less than the national average. And by the way, the national average is lower than the average of the 70s, 80s and the 90s. So we are working very hard to make sure that we continue to protect those family businesses. That’s one of the reasons the President wants to eliminate the death tax on those family businesses for once and for all.

We are working very hard to eliminate those higher rates you mentioned. I mentioned that we were able to return to small business $75 billion because of the Jobs and Growth package and we will continue to look for ways that we can make even more tax relief available to small businesses.

greg, from asheville, nc writes:
My understanding that the Federal Government and FEMA has spent billions of dollars for flood and disaster relief in North Carolina so why is it that everyone that we have spoken to have received little or no financial assistance?

Hector V. Barreto

The reality is that we have received hundreds of thousands of referrals from FEMA. FEMA is our partner. You need to call 1800 621 FEMA and they will get all your information and refer you over to us. We have literally approved hundreds of millions of dollars of disaster relief already for those who have been affected by the hurricanes.

We know that we are going to be approving hundreds of millions more before it is all done. For small business that needs this type of assistance we hope they reach out. We will look for every possible way to make that disaster loan. If they qualify for the disaster loan , we will do it. The SBA does not do grants. We are not legally authorized to do grants, but we can do low interest loans. Those interest loans can be under three percent and they can be for a long term – as much as 30 years. Collateral isn’t the most important priority, it is the ability to repay that loan. And we don’t do loans for small businesses, but we do them for homeowners and renters as well.

I hope you reach out to us. You can get information on our disaster programs at

Thanks for joining SBA Administrator Hector Barreto today.

Hector V. Barreto