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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Department of Energy's Small Business Conference, Kansas City, Missouri, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery

Thank you. I’m glad to be here to welcome you this morning. I would like to thank our sister agency, the U.S. Department of Energy for allowing us to partner with them in this undertaking.

It was not long ago that I was in another great, Midwestern, riverside city, talking about the importance of small businesses. That was a few months ago in Cincinnati, when I had the pleasure of joining Small Business Administrator Karen Mills to announce the formation of a Clean Water Innovation Cluster.

That cluster is a regional collaboration that is bringing together university researchers, EPA scientists, local utilities and leading local small businesses. By bringing together their energy and expertise, they will dream up, design, develop and deploy the next generation of clean water innovation.

I mention that here in Kansas City because it illustrates the vital role small businesses play in the work that EPA does to protect our health and our environment.

To fulfill our mission, we count on the ingenuity and inventions of American small businesses. EPA’s forty – year history has been a history of innovation – from the catalytic converter to the smoke stack scrubber, to pollution monitors and new scientific instruments that make our job possible.

Innovations have made everything we do cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable. They are what have allowed us to bring clean water to more and more homes and businesses over the last four decades, and to reduce dangerous pollution in our air by more than half – at the same time more cars went on the road, more homes and buildings were built, and more power plants came online.

In our Clean Water Innovation Cluster, one Ohio-based firm – recognized by BusinessWeek as “One of America’s most promising startups” – already has a device on the market to help treat metals in our water. Another local company is developing sensor technology to better detect harmful substances that threaten our health and the health of our children.

These are not just new environmental protections – they are new products. They are developed and built by American workers, and sold by American companies. And they are just a few of the many examples of the thriving interaction between EPA and American small businesses.

In short, innovation – which is the specialty of American small businesses – is what has allowed us to grow our economy at the same time we have increased protections for our health, our children’s health, and our environment.

Your companies play a role in the innovation and the implementation of our work – that is why we are making small businesses central to our overall mission.

Last year the EPA awarded 43 percent of its contract dollars to the small business community – providing $1.9 billion in economic opportunities to those firms. This is an impressive achievement – especially when you consider that the small business goal set for all Federal Government agencies is 23 percent.

When the Small Business Administration released its fourth annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard in 2010, I’m proud to say that the EPA had the highest score in the Federal Government for our accomplishments in supporting small business contracting.

Of course, this is not just something that benefits EPA. It’s no secret that small businesses are the foundation of the American economy. Firms with 500 or fewer employees create the most new jobs and employ more than half of the nation’s private sector workforce. Two out of every three jobs in America come from small businesses.

That is clearly something President Obama understands. As he said to a group of small businesses in Cleveland earlier this year, “when it comes to our economy, it’s our small businesses that pack the biggest punch.” He is using his leadership – and asking people at all levels of government to use their leadership – to ensure that we capitalize on the extraordinary potential of American small businesses.

On September 27 of last year, the president signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act, the most significant piece of small business legislation in over a decade. The new law provides critical resources to help small businesses continue to drive economic recovery and create jobs. It extends successful SBA loan programs, while offering billions more in lending support, tax cuts, and other opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

At EPA we strongly support President Obama’s push to increase small business procurement through a “think small first” mentality. And that starts with our senior leadership. We are working to support small businesses at every level and in every program office and region. From the top down we encourage this shared responsibility.

The Superfund program, for example, is one that has vastly improved in awarding small business contracts, thanks to the high level of attention given by senior management. That program has gone from awarding 40 large firms contracts in the 1990’s, to having almost equal representation from small and large business today – with 12 big businesses and 11 small businesses taking part. Let me also note that their subcontractors are 80 percent small businesses.

In fact, right here in EPA Region 7 – which also includes Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri – we’ve seen great success. EPA employees are working closely with small firms. Last year, 60 percent of their Superfund dollars went to small businesses.

This is the type of success we want to see across all our programs. We want to continue to raise the bar, and to do our part to improve the health of our nation’s small businesses and the economy you drive.

In the very near future, I will be forwarding a message to all EPA staff emphasizing the importance of small businesses. I want EPA to continue to foster a culture within the Agency to “think small first,” and to support the outreach of EPA’s Office of Small Business Programs.

Supporting small businesses is critical to our health, to our environment, and to our economy. The EPA has always thrived on the entrepreneurship and innovation of American companies. That is only going to increase in the years ahead – as we work to build a clean energy economy, as we make our cars and homes and businesses more energy efficient, and as we address new and longstanding environmental challenges.

It is important for EPA to continue to lead the Federal government in small business contracting. As entrepreneurs, the opportunities that are available to you today are possible because we live in a country that embraces the spirit of those who are willing to take a chance and succeed.

As small businesses, your initiative and enterprise hold the promise for winning the future. We look forward to working with you. Thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of the conference.