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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
Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
January 20, 2006

Hector Barreto
Good afternoon, everyone. I am pleased to join you again on "Ask the White House" and talk about small business and the economy. One of President Bush's top priorities is to make sure we have an environment for small businesses to grow and flourish. That is why the advancement of his small business agenda is important for the vibrancy of such an important part of our economy.

I would now be happy to answer your questions.

Patti, from South Central Michigan writes:
I am currently researching grants available in my area to open a campgroundlodge, which will eventually employ approximately 25 -50 people in this rural area. Can you please give me some assistance with this search?

Thank you for your help

Hector Barreto
Unfortunately, the SBA does not do grants. Your idea sounds very interesting. I would encourage you to inquiry about what assistance may be available in your home state. You may also want to check with the Department of the Interior as your idea has something to do with the outdoors. They may be able to point you in the right direction.

Good luck with your search.

Mark, from Detroit MI writes:
Mr BarretoIs it true that none US citizen's recieve tax breaks to start businesses in America,then when the tax break time limit runs out,I was told they sell to family members and start the tax break all over again.

I own a small business,and work very hard in very difficult times. I ask nothing from my Goverment in a form of hand outs and I was born in America and Love my country. Thank You Mark Weber

Hector Barreto
The tax code applies to U.S. citizens and residents and by extension tax cuts apply to those that qualify.

Ben, from State College, PA writes:
It is stated by this website that "Taxes were lowered on individuals and families, and by cutting taxes, the Administration helped raise real after-tax income per person by 7 percent while the President has been in office - making a real difference for America's families." This is good for now, but what about the future of the defecit? Is cutting taxes a good idea considering our current defecit? Families may have more spending ability, but at what cost?

Hector Barreto
The President believes that by cutting taxes, our economy and businesses will be allowed to grow. He also believes that it is important to restrain spending. Because of his policies, his administration is on track to cut the budget deficit in half by 2009.

owen, from redlands, ca. writes:
why should'nt we defund the sba? why should the fedral gov. even be in the buisness of picking and choosing who should be aloud to get a loan?

Hector Barreto
The SBA has been a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs for over 50 years. SBA loans are for anyone that qualifies for them. We certainly don’t pick and choose. Last year, almost 100,000 small business loans for almost $19 billion were available to the small business community through the SBA’s loan guarantee programs.

steve, from SW La. writes:
How are small businesses truly able to compete with large corporations? There is no way unless you make huge concessions to them.

Hector Barreto
I would not say that it’s a matter of competition. Our diverse economy has a place for large corporations and small businesses. I would say that they depend on each other. Large corporations depend on small businesses for products and services that they need. My belief is that it is good for small businesses to have relationship with large companies because that will open the doors to opportunities.

Furthermore, recognizing the importance of small businesses, the President has put in place a small business agenda to help this vital part of the economy grow and flourish.

Crystal, from Tampa, Florida writes:
What is the Bush administration doing to encourage more minorities to open small businesses? For example; making it easier to get small business loans?

Hector Barreto
President Bush strongly believes that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. For entrepreneurs, his small business agenda (tax cuts, less regulation, greater access to health care, etc) seeks to do that.

At the SBA, I’ve made it a point during my tenure to make sure that our programs reach all communities. Last year, nearly one third of our loans were made to women and minorities. That was a 26 percent increase over the year before.

Whether it’s through financing, technical assistance and contracting opportunities, our commitment is to help all communities across the country be successful.

Leah, from Robertsdale, Alabama writes:
Will it be possible, in the future, for the SBA to offer some sort of greater "break" to victims of natural disasters?

Hector Barreto
The SBA already offers low-interest, taxpayer-backed loans to homeowners, renters and businesses impacted by a disaster. Depending on the type of loans, interest rates may be as low as 2.68 percent.

As far as the future is concerned, that is something that the Congress could consider, as they establish how our disaster program is run.

chris, from virginia writes:
how much dose it normally cost to start a business ?

Hector Barreto
It depends on the type of business. For example, if you want to be a consultant, the costs would be much lower than say, for example, a construction company or small manufacturing facility.

They key for anyone interested in starting a small business is to do their homework by writing a business plan. That will help determine what it will cost to open a business.

Angelia, from Raleigh, NC writes:
What are the President's plans to assist small business owners and their employees with health care coverage? His plan for health care does not seem to include those who make less than $85,000 a year.

Hector Barreto
As I said previously, President Bush recognizes that affordable, quality health care is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses today.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-free saving accounts that can be used for routine medical expenses. HSAs belong to workers and can be taken from job to job. I encourage you to look into this. You can find details here:

The President is asking Congress to expand HSAs.

The President has also called on Congress to pass Association Health Plans so small businesses can purchase insurance at the same discounts as big companies.

Richard, from Fairmont,W.V. writes:
Is there any "real" help for opening a small business? My wife and I have a simple great plan,great locaction, but I have been off the job due to a work releated injury. The banks laughed at us, (no really they did)what if any thing can we do. Any help in this matter would be great.. Thank You... GOD BLESS

Hector Barreto
Sure, there is. There are many free resources available to help you start your business. You should start by visiting our Web site at

One of the key things to do is to put together a business plan and I encourage you to write one. You should contact our office in West Virginia to find out what financing options are available in your area. Their phone number is (304) 623-5631.

Katherine, from Jackson, WY writes:
Mr. Barreto, I am a small business owner. Our employee health care premium costs have increased at a rate of at least 35 annnually and in our state, there is really only one health insurance company. Is the SBA doing anything to try to create a pooling system for small business? We have terrific employees and we want to continue to insure them. Thanks

Hector Barreto
President Bush recognizes that affordable, quality health care is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses today.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-free saving accounts that can be used for routine medical expenses. HSAs belong to workers and can be taken from job to job. I encourage you to look into this. You can find details here:

The President has also called on Congress to pass Association Health Plans so small businesses can purchase insurance at the same discounts as big companies.

Sara, from Michigan writes:
Administrator Barreto,Thank you for taking questions today. The last time you were a guest on "Ask the White House" you discussed Hurricane Katrina's effects on Small Businesses down south. Can you give an update of how small businesses are doing in the Gulf Coast? Thank you.

Hector Barreto
I have been down to the Gulf Coast five times already. I have seen first hand how hard communities down there are working to get back on their feet. I am gratified to see more “Yes, We’re Open” signs. The SBA has already approved over $3 billion in low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and small businesses impacted by the devastating hurricanes last year. For businesses alone, we’ve approved over $600 million in disaster loans. On top of that, through our regular loan programs we’ve made over $230 million to small businesses in the affected areas.

We’re also working with the private and non-profit sectors to help the small business community and I am gratified by these efforts on the part of everyone to help this part of the economy.

Having said all this, I know there is still more work to do and I pledge to you that the SBA will stay on the job down there until it is complete.

Suzanne, from Illinois writes:
Why aren't Americans in the middle and lower economic classes--reaping some of the benefits of what the President calls a healthy economy.

Hector Barreto
Because of the President’s policies and leadership, Americans are benefiting from a healthy economy. Under the President’s leadership, taxes have been lowered, more training is available to employees to prepare for the jobs of the 21st Century and more international markets have been opened to American goods and services.

Elisabeth, from Kalamazoo writes:
It seems small businesses are always struggling no matter the state of the economy. I know the economy is growing--so how exactly does that help small businesses or vice versa?

Hector Barreto
Actually, small business is the engine that fuels the economy. President Bush’s philosophy is that government should, through its policies, create and maintain an environment where small businesses can grow and flourish. If this happens, this helps the economy. A healthy small business sector means a healthy economy and vice versa.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Administrator Barreto: It was good to hear the President praise small business in Virgina. Most think that BIG business runs the economy. But don't small business's apply a lot of GREASE to keep it running?Thank You

Hector Barreto
You are correct. Small businesses apply the GREASE to keep our economy growing. Here are some reasons why:

Small businesses:

  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.

  • Employ half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 45 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade.
  • Create more than 50 percent of nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Supplied more than 23 percent of the total value of federal prime contracts in FY 2004.
  • Produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms. These patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited.
  • Are employers of 41 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer workers).
  • Are 53 percent home-based and 3 percent franchises.
  • Made up 97 percent of all identified exporters and produced 26 percent of the known export value in FY 2002.

John, from Seattle writes:
How can I own a business when I get taxed so heavily?

Hector Barreto
One of the key aspects of President Bush’s small business agenda is cutting taxes for small businesses. Why? Because by cutting taxes for small businesses, they will have a greater incentive to invest more and create more jobs. In 2006, 25 million small business owners will receive an estimated $93 billion in tax relief. Going forward, it is important for the Congress to make permanent the tax cuts already in place. Allowing the tax cuts to expire would be a tax increase on small businesses.

peter, from capital heights writes:
how can i get a govt business loan?

Hector Barreto
The SBA does not actually make business loans. We guarantee them. The best way to find out what SBA-guaranteed business loans are available in your area is to contact our local district office. If you are located in Washington, DC, our district office number there is (202) 272-0345. They can tell you which banks in this area work with us.

For more details about small business financing, please visit

Shirley, from Lynchburg, Virginia writes:
Each year the President signs a proclamation designating Small Business Week. We'd like to hold special events, which require advance planning, in association with Small Business Week. Can you share which week in 2006 will be proclaimed Small Business Week?

Hector Barreto
It’s great that you hold special events during National Small Business Week. We are planning our National Small Business activities during the week of April 10.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
What would you recommend to someone starting a small business?

Hector Barreto
Take advantage of the resources that are out there.

The SBA is America’s small business resource and its mission is to aid, counsel, assist, and protect the interests of small businesses. The SBA through its lending and resource partners provides a wide variety of tools and resources to start a small business or maintain and strengthen an existing one.

One of the most important things I tell prospective entrepreneurs is that they need to do their homework. By that I mean creating a business plan. That is paramount for ensuring the success of a small business in the long term.

A good place to start on the entrepreneurial journey is our Web site, We have many resources available there, including descriptions of all of our products and services as well as the locations of our district offices.

Good luck!

Hector Barreto
I would like to thank everyone for their questions. I am always pleased to have the opportunity to interact with the American public.

You should know that President Bush is strongly committed to small businesses and their success. His commitment is demonstrated through his vision, philosophy and policies.

As SBA administrator, I have made it my priority to do all we can through our products and services to be a resource entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a former small business owner myself, I fully appreciate what they do for our economy and country and I am inspired by what they do each and every day.

Thank you and all the best to you this year.

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