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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 Barreto
Hector Barreto

March 24, 2004

Hector Barreto
Good afternoon. It is great to be at the White House. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss small business and how it empowers our economy. Let's take some questions.

Ray, from Georgia writes:
As a small business owner, I feel the administration does want to help but there never seems like there is enough money to meet the needs. How do you respond to this?

Hector Barreto
Thanks Ray. This year we finish our 50th anniversary of the SBA. Over those 50 years, the SBA has facilitated over $230 billion in loans for small business.

We have helped 20 million small businesses and facilitated billions of dollars in government contracts for small businesses.

This last year we broke every record at the SBA. We did 30 percent more loans to small businesses. We trained 2 million companies. And we facilitated thousands of contracting opportunities for small business.

This administration's commitment to small business is strong and we look forward to helping millions more small businesses to come.

Wayne, from Plymouth, MN writes:
Good afternoon Mr. Barreto. I have often thought one of the challenges of running a small business would be providing health care for their employees. Has there ever been some thought of working with insurance and health care providers to allow these businesses to pool together so that they could provide a better package for their employees. I would think this would be a beneficial things for small businesses.

Hector Barreto

You are absolutely right. Health care is the #1 issue for small businesses. That is the reason the President is promoting association health plans or AHPs. This legislation has passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote and we are waiting on the Senate to take it up.

AHPs could reduce the insurance premiums by 20 percent or more by allowing them to pool together. In addition, last year in the Medicare bill HSAs or Health Savings Accounts became available to small business. This allows individuals to put money aside on a tax free basis to pay for medical expenses

This is another great tool for small business.

Shelly, from Little Rock, AR writes:
Why do you think immigrant entrepreneurs is one of the fastest growing groups in the country? What other groups are growing?

Hector Barreto

I was just with the President at a Small Business event where he talked about the contributions that immigrants make to this country. He likes to say the neighborhood is changing and we have to be good neighbors. And he is right.

The other group that are groups are women-owned businesses. They are the fastest growing segment and represent 40 percent of all small businesses in the US.

As a matter of fact, my parents were immigrants who became successful business owners. And my mother was one of the best entrepreneurs I ever knew.

William, from Brockway, PA writes:
Mr. Barreto, as an employee of a small, family-owned resturaunt, we often find ourselves in a position where we do not have the resources we need for proper advertising. How could we, and other small businesses go about getting government aide for the promotion of private business?

Hector Barreto

Our family business was a family owned restaurant. I understand the challenges to market yourself and to afford proper advertising. Sometimes the best way is to reach out to the organizations , chambers of commerce, and networks of your existing clients to get the word out.

With regards to government aid, there is a program at the sba called business matchmaking where we connect small businesses with the buyers at every government agency.

please go for all the details . good luck to you and your family.

James, from Pennsylvania writes:
What is the government doing today to help small busninesses? I know that there are many taxbreaks for them, but what else, in your opinion, should be done to help them? Do you think that there is a real need to have government support for small businesses or should they be left a little more to themselves?

Hector Barreto

The President believes that small businesses need a level playing field. That is why his small business agenda is so important. It not only includes significant tax relief but also access to affordable health care, tort reform effective energy policy and the opening of new market opportunties.

The President says the role of government is not to create wealth but to create the proper environment. We are working to ensure that proper environment for years to come.

Laura, from WA writes:
Hello. Why are the small businesses that important for the economy?

Lately we hear a lot about this. Here and there they're talking about it. But I don't understand why it's that important. Thanks Laura,15

Hector Barreto
Hi Laura and thank you,

The President says there is nothing small about small business. And he's right. There are 23 million small businesses in America. They represent 52 percent of the gross output in the economy. They create 3/4 of the net new jobs and they are also the place where much of the new innovation and technology come from

They truly are the engine that fuels our economy.

Joyce, from MS writes:
What advice can you give someone who is thinking about starting up their own business, with the economy the way it is right now, is it worth the risks involved?

Hector Barreto

This is a great time to learn about starting up a small business. The sba provides tremendous amounts of information on our web site at We receive a million visitors every week many who are interested in starting their own small business

You can find info on our loan programs, our training and tech assistance programs and contracting opportunities.

Everett, from Clear Lake, CA writes:
Under the President's tax reductions, what is the average tax relief for small businesses and what is the average tax relief for large corporations?


Hector Barreto

The President's jobs and growth package reduced the marginal tax rates on 23 million small businesses. The average tax relief was over $2,800 per year.

That returned over $10 billioni back to small businesses. In addition, the President's plan quadrupled the deduction businesses can take for equipment and other investments in their business from 25,000 to 100,000.

the treasury dept has information on tax deductions for all americans and businesses. you can get information on

Maria, from Harrisburg writes:
Job Growth, where? I don't see it or believe it.

Hector Barreto

The truth is small businesses are creating most of the net new jobs in our economy. Unfortunately, you don't hear about those figures on the monthly payroll survey that the Department of Labor reports every month.

Oftentimes, those job hnumbers won't be visible for more than a year after they are created.

That is why it is so important that we continue to provide small businesses with the tools they need to succeed.

Dennis, from Key West writes:
I recently read that the SBA wants to lower the rules concerning the number of employees that determine a small business from 37 to 10. How with more businesses qualifying for loan and financing programs, how will this affect the current businesses classified as a "small business"? Will more resources and money be available?

Hector Barreto

We are reviewing all of our size standards. Right now our definition of a small business 500 or less employees. We will continue to serve all small businesses in the US. The budget the President provided for this year and next is sufficient for us to accomplish all of small businesses' needs.

Kayla, from Bentonville, AR writes:
What plans does President Bush have for keeping taxes for small businesses low? Go BushCheney

Hector Barreto

That is why the Jobs and Growth package was so important to small business. The President wants to make the tax relief to small business permanent. He understands that it is not our money -- it is your money and if we give them more of their own money, they will put it back to work and create jobs. It is critically important to our economy now and in the future.

Ray, from california writes:
First I'd like to say congratulations Hector, from Ray Castro and Oscar Brocamonte. Question, do you ever need input or questions answered regarding environmental (mold) problems? And if so how could I be of service.

Hector Barreto
Hi Ray and Oscar,

Please say hello to allmy friends in CA. WE're always looking for input on how we can help small business better. If you have any ideas, please email at :

Good luck to you both on all of your future business endeavors.

Paula, from Houston Texas writes:
Good afternoon Mr. Barreto, My name is Paula and along with my sister Shirley, we were interested in starting up a business and was wondering if you could direct us in the way of whom should we contact. I know we would have to get a dba and tax id number, but we need help with getting a business grant and building. Any insight you may have is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

Hector Barreto
Hello Paula

There are a number of different resources for you and your sister. First, try and contact the SBA office in Houston TX. They do a great job and can help you identify applicable resources.

In addition, you can call 1-800-UAS-KSBA and request a small business start up kit. As always, the informationon all of our programs is easily available at Good luck to you and your sister.

Joel, from Ewing, NJ writes:
Administrator Barreto, According to the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee, small businesses make up 96 of all exporters. Therefore, it seems that the growth of small businesses is crucial for expanding international trade and economic growth. What are the recent trends in this sector of the economy? Are small business start-ups increasing? Is their share of the GDP expanding?

Thank you.

Hector Barreto

Small business is a major player in international trade. WE believe there are over 200,000 small businesses in volved in international trade . Those companies do a billiondollars a day in trade. But they only represent 30 percent of all of the trade that is occuring from our country

That is why the SBA office of International Trade works hard to provide export loans, international trade technical assistance and facilitates contacts and resources from other government agencies.

Small business startups are increasing. Their share of GDP is at 52 percent. WE believe this will continue to grow in the years to come.

Linda, from CA writes:
What advice do you have for small business owners as more and more manufacturing jobs are transfered overseas? Why should small business owners continue to expand when very quickly their customers could look overseas?

Hector Barreto

The manufacturing segment of the US is very important. W are working very hard with Commerce to assist small manufaacturers with the capital and opportunities they need.

One program that can assist manufactureres is the 504 Certified Development Company Program. It provides multimillion dollar loans for companies to buy equipment or real estate.

Last year, we did over 3 billion dollars in these kinds of loans. And could do 5 billion a year.

The reality is many foreign comnpanies also bring jobs to the US. In fact, there are 6 million americans employed by foreign companies in the US.

We believe the opportunieis for small businesses in the future are very bright. Please let us know if we can assist you or your business

Contact us at

Jim, from San Francisco writes:
The President has talked about the economy in recent months and stated that our economy is changing and that he sees an increase in small business in future. I'm wondering if this is because larger companies have streamlined their workforces and, because of the cost of health, dental and other benefits, more white collar jobs are becoming "consultant" positions instead of full or part time positions and does(in my opinion) fall under the heading of small business?

Just curious.

Hector Barreto

You are right. The President is very focused on small business. He understands tyhat increasingly the jobs of the future come from small business. Many larger companies are insourcing jobs with small businesses.

As our economy continues to be more and more productive, we believe that this trend will continue.

Our definition of small business is any company from 1 to 500. The majority of small businesses employ less than 20 people.

Thank you for your question.

Helen, from Brooksville writes:
What percentage of small business owners look to SBA for help? What services are offered?

Hector Barreto

There are 23 million small businesses and we helped over 2.1 million small businesses last year access loans , tech assistance, and contracts.

I often say, small businesses don't know what they don't know and that is why it is so important for the sba to reach out and find those businesses.

Tiffany, from New Jersey writes:
Dear Hector Barreto, What do you actually do as a small Business Administrator? The reason why I am asking this is mostly because I am wondering what kind of jobs I can get in order to work for or with the government. I am going to college for business classes and photography classes.

Thank you for your time

Hector Barreto
Dear Tiffany

Thank you for your question. As the SBA Administrator, I am responsible for managing the oeprati0ons of the SBA and also communicating the resources that the SBA provides on behalf of all American small businesses.

I too was a business student in college and worked in family businesses all my life prior to becoming the sba administrator. There are many opportunities in working at all levels of government.

Once you finish your education, I invite you to contact the federal government at the Office of Personnel Management -- in fact you can go to their web site at

Good luck to you on your future career.

James, from Portland writes:
Why does the Administration keep saying there will be better times ahead, when are those better times going to get here already?

Hector Barreto

I was recently in Portland with the Secretaries of Commerce, Treasury and Labor to discuss what is happening in our economy and what are the opportunities in the futre.

The President says he is very optimistic about the future because he believes so much in the American people

The truth is our economy is turning around.

Interest rates are low, unemployment is down to 5.6 percent , the stock market has added $4 trillioin over the last year. However, the President also says he will not be satisifed until every American who wants a job has a job

That is why our work is not done and we are so committed to growing our economy for all Americans.

James, I wish you good fortune in all your endeavors.

Hector Barreto
I want to thank all of you for participating in this webchat. You learn a lot more by listening to your customers, than talking to them. Your customers will always tell you what they need to be successful. We are listening and we will continue to act on behalf of the American people. Thank you for everything you do to make our country great.