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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

April 27, 2005

Hector Barreto
Good afternoon, everyone. I am very pleased to be participating in today's "Ask the White House" Web chat. As administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration it's of added significance for me to be joining you during National Small Business Week. President George W. Bush has just addressed the attendees at our yearly small business conference here in Washington, DC. We were honored by his presence and appreciated his remarks very much.

I now look forward to answering your questions.

Brent, from Austin, TX writes:
What is going to be done with health insurance for small businesses? Premiums are going up each year and soon I will not be able to afford to pay the premium for my employees. How is President Bush going to help me?

Hector Barreto
I just testfied in front of the Senate Small Business Committee on this very important issue impacting small businesses.

The President is a strong proponent of Association Health Plans. The House has acted and it's important for the Senate to take action. If AHPs become a reality, it could save small businesses up to 20 percent in their premiums.

One option currently available for small businesses are Health Savings Accounts. We have information about them on our Web site at

ary, from rhode Island writes:
What is the SBA doing to encourage more women to start companies

Hector Barreto
We're doing outreach at all levels.

First of all, we have about 100 women's business centers. Also, we have an offiice of women's buisiness ownership dedicated to make sure women entrepreneurs have all the tools to be successful.

In addition, we work closely with the National Women's Business Council in their efforts to promote and advocate for women entrepreneurs.

By the way, the number of loans we've made to women has shown dramatic increases. This year, we're up about 50 percent in our two main loan programs in loans to women.

J., from The Nation's Capital writes:
If you are 14 yrs. old, can you start your own business? And If yes, how would I do it?

Hector Barreto
Yes, but you should understand the legal and compliance responsibilities. My advice is to seek a mentor as a start. Talk to your parents or a friend about it. Good luck.

Miguel, from Pennsylvania writes:
How can small businesses go about getting government contracts?

Hector Barreto
Visit your local SBA office. Or, go online to and find out all about government contracting. Be sure to do your homework. There are many aspects about government procurement. But, at the same time, there are lots of opportunities.

One of the things you may want to do is visit This is a public/private sector effort to generate contracting opportunities for small business.

In FY '03 the federal government bought almost 24 percent of goods and services from small businesses for a total of almost $66 billion.

Jean, from Bailey, NC writes:
I am interested in finding out what grants are available for minorites, such as a Native American, for starting a small business.

Hector Barreto
The SBA does loan guarantees, provides technical assistance and works with other government agencies to make sure small businesses have all the government contracting opportunities available.

We are not authorized to do grants, but some agencies do. Visit to see what might be available from other government agencies.

Amy, from Patterson, CA writes:
I know there are many grants available to help small business owners, but I don't know the best way to access and obtain them without having to pay for information. Can you give me any information that might help me?

Hector Barreto
There is a lot of information available for free on how the government can help you. The SBA is not authorized to do grants. Visit to see what other agencies provide to help small businesses.

Marc, from Edina, Minnesota writes:
My question is--what does your organization do for small businesses? I am interested in opening my own bike shop business in about 5-10 years and was wondering how I could utilize your organization? thanks.

Hector Barreto
The SBA is the leading government agency established to help small businesses. We do this through loan guarantees, technical assistance, training, education and counseling and we provide federal contracting assistance. We've been doing this for over 50 years now.

I think there are 3 things important for small business: capital, capacity building and contracts.

When you're ready to get started, visit There is lots of good information there for prospective entrepreneurs.

Patty, from Syracuse, NY writes:
Administrator Barreto,What exactly is celebrated during "National Small Business Week"?

Thank you, Patty

Hector Barreto
Every year the President declares Small Business Week in the US. The purpose to acknowledge the contributions of US small businesses. We produce an Expo to assist small businesses in obtaining the tools they need for success and to award deserving small businesses for their significant accomplishments and what they add to our nation's economy. These awards include our 50 state small business winners and our small business person of the year.

Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
How many people can a person employ for their company to still be considered a "Small Business"? Thanks.

Hector Barreto
The most common definition is 500 or less employees. In reality, most of the 25 million small businesses in the US have less than 20 employees. If you do federal procurement, there will be a revenue size standard depending on what industry you are in. The avereage revenue size standard is approximately $5-6 million in sales a year.

BRET, from MART TX writes:
What can i do about the situation featuring the people around here wanting dicounts on so many things that i can not just do. I am struggling with so many customers becuase they want to get a discount on many products in my store. I can't give it to them due to the fact that i have to pay bills for the store and i have to pay the rent for the building i am in right now. Just exactly what can I do about this situation? I want to have some customers but i am losing them due to the discounts they want.

Hector Barreto
I understand your dilemma. This may be an opportunity to review your business plan and model to see if some strategic changes are necessary.

SBA has great partners like the small business development centers and SCORE chapters. They can help you at literally no charge. The best way to find out where you nearest SBA resource partner is by going online at Good luck to you.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Adm.Barreto: We hear of General Motors, Ford, GE, and of coursr Wal-Mart and others. But what are the numbers of small businesses vs big businesses? What does the govenrment use to classify a big business from a samll business? I would think the number of small businesses would shock most people compared to the big businesses and the number of people each type employs. Thank You

Hector Barreto
You're right. There is nothing small about small businesses. There are 25 million. They produce 52 percent of the private sector output. They are the place that as much as 2/3 of the new jobs come from. And, they create most of the new technology.

SBA is committed to be a strong partner, a passionate advocate for US small businesses. There will always be a need for a vibrant and successful small business community.

Tanesha, from Michigan writes:
What are the qualifacations to apply for money for a small busniess?can you receive money for multiLevel business? I feel that businesses like Avon,etc should have money reserve forloses purchases as the big company has.There have been many small business owners stuck with a huge bill of customers not paying for their purchases and cause the business owner alot of grief as well as lose.Does the Gov. have a program for them.

Hector Barreto
Every company has different policies or procedures governing their business. SBA cannot be involved directly in private business arrangements. However, SBA is fortunate to have many Fortune 500 companies as partners for small business. They are committed to this market because they understand the significant opportunities that small businesses represent for their business. SBA can help connect small business owners with small business owners to create new partnerships.

John, from Houston writes:
I am a manufacturing company owner in Texas with 170 employees. When can the government acheive real progress towards controlling health care costs for business and employees? Twenty-Five percent increases every year are a major disincentive towards hiring more people and growing our business.

Hector Barreto
We totally agree. That is why we're fighting to get Association Health Plans to become law.

We're also proposing to expand the newly established Health Savings Account program, offer additional tax credits for health insurance purchases and are fighting frivolous lawsuits that drive up business costs. That is why the President signed a bill to do just that earlier this year. All small businesses who care about this issue should let their senators know and ask them to work together to make all of this important pending legislation a reality.

Lana, from Portland, Maine writes:
Why can individual States such as N.J. and N.Y. impose a corporate income tax on our very small business based in Maine. We own and operate a tour and charter bus company that transports passengers to their state where we and our patrons spend money and pay their local taxes, even if we are just passing through their state they want a piece of us. Then annually, they want more of our Companies money for bringing them there and us making a living. We pay our corporate taxes as we should to the Government and our State of high taxation.

These other states wanting a piece of our bottom line will put an end to our business and alot of people out of work.

Thank you for your time. Sincerely Lana Sawyer

Hector Barreto
We agree that small businesses often times pay more taxes than much larger companies. That is why the President has been adamant that we need to provide tax relief to America's small business owners. Over the last four years, we have reduced federal taxes on three different occasions and saved small business owners $75 billion in the last year. The President wants to make some of those tax provisions permanent.

With regards to the state taxes, every state imposes their own separate tax rates. There is an old saying: It's not what you make, but what to keep. We want small businesses to keep more of what they earn.

On a positive note, I am happy to announce that the SBA small business person of the year for 2005 is none other than Maine's own Marianne Sensale-Guerin, president of Guerin Associates. Congratulations to her and all of the other small business state winners.

Christopher, from Miami Florida writes:
Mr. Barreto,I am Latino, just as you are. Thank you for serving our country. How do you think being a minority helps you in your position? Does it help understand minorities better who are trying to start businesses?

Hector Barreto
I was honored four years ago when President Bush asked me to become the SBA administrator.

It is always an honor to serve your country. I am have been especially privileged to represent all of America's 25 million small businesses. The fastest growing segment of small businesses are emerging, minority small businesses, which are 15 percent of US businesses. And, women-owned businesses account for 40 percent of all businesses. I am proud of my heritage and of being from this great country.

Good luck to you and all of our wonderful small business entrepreneurs.

Hector Barreto
Thank you very much for your questions. I was pleased to participate in today's session. Please know that President Bush and his administration are committed to small business and to the prosperity of this vital segment of our economy. The President has spoken many times about creating an environment for small business to flourish. This has been his commitment since the start of his presidency.

You can also be assured that the SBA will have the resources to continue to be America's small business resource and an agency of government that will always advocate for the needs of small businesses.

Thank you very much and I wish the small business and entrepreneurial community all the best in the future.