President Obama's Prepared Remarks in Buffalo

Delivered at Industrial Support Inc. - May 13, 2010

Hello, Buffalo! This is my first visit to western New York as President, and I am so happy to be here – especially since it’s not snowing like it was last Sunday. And I thought Chicago was bad.

I’m also pleased that I could get out of Washington for the day. I’ve been trying to make a habit of that once a week or so. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a beautiful city. I get to live above the company store. Can’t beat the commute. It’s just that sometimes, all you hear in Washington is the clamor of politics. And that clamor can drown out the voices of the American people. So I don’t want to make a big speech today because I want to hear from you – your questions, your concerns, and your hopes.

But before I do, I just want to say a few words about the thing that I know is front and center on everyone’s mind, and that is the state of our economy.

I don’t need to tell all of you that we are still emerging from one of the worst recessions in history. It’s been tough everywhere, but cities like Buffalo have been hit especially hard. Even before the most recent downturn began – years before – you were seeing jobs disappear and factories shut their doors. Your costs went up but your wages didn’t. And that is tough on families and devastating to communities.

So breaking our economic free fall was job number one when I took office. Remember, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Our economy was shrinking. And experts of all political stripes were warning of another Great Depression. It wasn’t that long ago, but it’s easy to forget just how fragile things were. And we had to take some steps that weren’t particularly popular.

Having just inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from the last administration, the last thing I wanted to do was spend money on a recovery package, or help the American auto industry keep its doors open, or prevent the collapse of the Wall Street banks whose irresponsibility helped cause this crisis. But I knew that if we didn’t act boldly and quickly – if we didn’t defy the politics of the moment and do what was necessary – we would have risked an even greater disaster. If we simply gave in to the partisan posturing in Washington – all the poll-taking and calculation that caused an entire party to sit on the sidelines – the same party that was in charge when this crisis unfolded – millions more Americans would lose their jobs, their businesses, and their homes.

But Buffalo, I didn’t run for President to preside over decline. I didn’t run for President to watch the erosion of the middle class continue. I ran for President to keep the American Dream alive in our time. So we met our responsibilities. We did what the moment required.

Now, I won’t stand here and pretend that we’ve climbed all the way out of this hole. I read too many letters each night from folks who are still hurting or out of work to believe that. You know, economists have all kinds of fancy formulas and mathematical equations to measure the exact moment the recession ended. And it’s great that the stock market has bounced back. But if you’re still looking for a job, it’s still a recession. If you can’t pay your bills or your mortgage, it’s still a recession. No matter what the economists say, it’s not a real recovery until people can feel it in their own lives – until Americans who want work can find it; until families can afford to pay their bills and send their kids to college. That’s what we’re working for. That’s our goal.

But I can say this beyond a shadow of a doubt: Today, we are heading in the right direction. Those tough steps we took – they’re working. Despite all the naysayers – who were predicting failure a year ago – our economy is growing again. Next month it will be stronger than last month. And next year will be better than this year. Last month, we gained 290,000 jobs – the largest increase in four years and the fourth month in a row that we’ve added jobs. And last month also brought the largest increase in manufacturing employment since 1998 – a good sign for companies like this one.

The question now is, how do we keep the momentum going? How do we keep adding more and more jobs?

We know that government must play a role in meeting this goal – but we also know that its role is limited. That’s because government is not the true engine of job creation and economic growth in this country. Businesses are. Especially small businesses like this one.

America’s small business owners – people like Dave Sullivan – have always been the backbone of America’s economy. These entrepreneurial pioneers embody the spirit of possibility, the tireless work ethic, and the simple hope for something better that lies at the heart of the American ideal. These are the men and women willing to take a chance on their dream. They’ve got good ideas and the drive to follow through. They’ve started the mom-and-pop stores and garage tinkering that have led to some of America’s biggest, most successful businesses. And they create most of the jobs that keep our workers employed. In fact, over the past decade and a half, America’s small businesses have created 65% of all new jobs in this country.

The problem is, our small businesses have also been some of the hardest hit by this recession. From the middle of 2007 through the end of 2008, small businesses lost 2.4 million jobs. And because banks shrunk from lending in the midst of the financial crisis, it has been difficult for entrepreneurs to take out the loans they need to start a business. For those who do own a small business, it’s been difficult to finance inventories, make payrolls, or expand if things are going well.

Government can’t create jobs, but it can create the conditions for small businesses to grow and thrive and hire more workers. Government can’t guarantee a company’s success, but it can knock down the barriers that prevent small business owners from getting loans or investing in the future. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.

When Dave wanted to expand this company last year, he received a loan from the Small Business Administration as part of the Recovery Act. It’s a loan that allowed him to pay the bills and purchase new equipment. Last fall, he was even able to increase his workforce. And today, he feels optimistic that he’ll be able to hire more workers in the near future.

Bill Puglisi and his brother Rick are also here with us today. They run a small business called Imperial Textile. And thanks to the SBA loan he received, they didn’t have to lay off any workers last year. In fact, they were even able to purchase a new building. Today, they’re looking to hire again.

Across America, we’ve taken steps like these to help companies grow and add jobs. Last year, we enacted seven tax cuts for America’s small businesses, as well as the Making Work Pay tax credit that goes to the vast majority of small business owners. So far, the Recovery Act has supported over 63,000 loans to small businesses – more than $26 billion in new lending. More than 1,200 banks and credit unions that had stopped issuing SBA loans when the financial crisis hit are lending again today. And more than $7.5 billion in federal Recovery Act contracts are now going to small businesses.

Right now, a series of additional tax incentives and other steps to promote hiring are taking effect. Because of a bill I signed into law a few weeks ago, businesses are now eligible for tax cuts for hiring unemployed workers. Companies are also able to write off more of their investments in new equipment. And as part of health reform, 4 million small businesses recently received a postcard in their mailboxes telling them that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year. It’s worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars to a company. And it will provide welcome relief to small business owners, who too often have to choose between health care and hiring.

All these steps have helped, and will help.

But I believe we need to do even more to give our small businesses a boost. And maybe the single most important thing we can do right now is to help insure that credit worthy small business owners can get the capital they need.

In my State of the Union address, I called for a $30 billion small business lending fund. This would help increase the flow of credit to small companies that were hit hard by the decline in lending that followed the financial crisis. Last week, I sent Congress this legislation, which now includes a new state small business credit initiative – an initiative that will help expand lending for small businesses and manufacturers at a time when budget shortfalls are leading states to cut back on vitally important lending programs. I have also asked Congress to work with us to extend and enhance SBA programs that have helped small business owners get loans and create new jobs.

So this is our small business agenda. This is our jobs agenda. I hear a lot of noise from some of our friends on the other side of the aisle that this is nothing more than “big government.” But I don’t understand how giving tax cuts to businesses is big government. I don’t understand how helping businesses get loans so they can grow and hire more workers is big government. I’m not interested in another old debate about big government versus small government. I care about whether government is meeting its responsibilities to the people it represents. I care about unleashing the great power of our economy, so Americans who are looking for work can find it. So I hope our small business agenda doesn’t fall victim to the same partisan posturing we’ve seen over the last year. Helping businesses create jobs should be something that both parties can agree on.

Since this company was founded more than a decade ago, you’ve done all that’s asked of Americans who hope to pursue the dream of owning their own business – you’ve taken a risk on a good idea; you’ve worked hard for your success; and you’ve met your responsibilities to your employees and your customers. And millions of small business owners and workers across the country have met those same responsibilities. Now it’s time that responsibility and that success are rewarded with the opportunity to keep growing, keep hiring, and keep contributing to the success of your communities and your country. That’s the opportunity we’re providing today, and that’s the opportunity I will continue fighting for as your President in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you.