Thank you for that great introduction. I’m truly delighted to be here with so many outstanding contractors, small-business entrepreneurs, and transportation leaders.
And I’m happy to see so many of my colleagues from across the Department of Transportation here with us this evening. These DOT leaders you are proof that we take small and disadvantaged businesses seriously.
Our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization has developed several initiatives to help small business owners achieve success, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.
And here are just a couple of things that we are doing.
I was in Chicago two years ago with Congressman Rush to announce the launch of our Bonding Education Program.
This program gives small businesses expert guidance to help them qualify for the commercial financing they’ll need to win major infrastructure projects.
Two beneficiaries of the program are in the audience this evening: Nathan and Glenda Phillips from South Side (Chicago).
Their company, Namat Construction, received a $250,000 bond after going through our 2012 Bonding Education Program.
They are proof of the positive impact these programs are having.
Chicago was one of our original three pilot cities and I am proud to say that the program has grown to twelve communities across the country.
DOT’s Short Term Lending Program is another very important tool - helping small businesses gain access to the short term working capital they need to complete transportation projects.
Since 2009, we have added more than 30 lenders to the program – including Seaway Bank here in Chicago.
Chicago is also home to DOT’s Small Business Transportation Resource Center for the Great Lakes region.
This center provides hands-on technical assistance and advice for companies interested in the transportation field. If you haven’t stopped by to see them yet, I would strongly encourage you to do so.
Each of these programs has a real effect on the ground –making it easier to do business with DOT.
I am very proud of the progress we have made. For the last three years DOT has received the Small Business Administration’s highest rating for its accomplishments in supporting small business contracting.
But we still have more work to do.
I know that the Englewood Flyover project has been on your minds. This project is very important to Chicago—and it’s going to create jobs at a time when they are most needed.
This bridge is going to have a positive impact on the community where it is built.
I want to recognize Congressman Rush and everyone who made their concerns known. That’s the first step to solving any problem.
I also want to thank Metra, IHC Construction and everyone who came to the table. Your ability to come together is a win-win situation for all of us.
But the biggest winners of all are the hardworking Chicagoans who now have a fair shot at a job.
DOT prides itself in our diverse workforce, and we look forward to continuing to level the playing field.
Now, we don’t just work with small and disadvantaged businesses because it is the right thing to do. We work with you because we know that you can deliver an unparalleled product - and you have a lasting impact on the local economy.
Small businesses like many of yours employ more than half of all private sector workers.
And most importantly, over the last seventeen years, small businesses have created 65% of the new jobs in America.
The companies that you own, manage, and work for are at the heart of President Obama’s vision for an America built to last.
This Administration has been working tirelessly to ensure that businesses are able to hire new workers and jumpstart our economy.
Just last month, President Obama signed into law a new transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21. This bill will create good-paying jobs and put Americans back to work repairing our nation’s infrastructure.
Coupled with President Obama’s We Can’t Wait initiative to get projects out the door faster, our actions will be a real boost for communities around the nation – and for businesses like yours.
We are looking forward to working with our partners across the country – particularly our small and disadvantaged businesses - to get workers back on the job rebuilding the finest transportation system on earth.
Thank you very much for your hard work, your collaboration, and your hospitality this evening.