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White House Visit to Silicon Valley Focuses on Minority Business

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With 11 straight months of private sector job growth, America is moving in the right direction. Yet with still too many people searching for work, the Obama administration is continuing its efforts to spur hiring. Last week, as part of that pursuit, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosted its Summit on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth in Silicon Valley.

The valley is home to many of the world's largest technology corporations and is an enduring symbol of our country's ingenuity and innovation. And, it should be noted, hundreds of Silicon Valley's tech companies are run by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders - a fact that reflects just how important the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation are in their community.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of business ownership among all minorities, and their businesses account for fully half of all minority business employment in the United States.

These facts should be of interest to all Americans because Asian American and Pacific Islander and other minority businesses make substantial contributions to the U.S. economy, generating up to $2.5 trillion in gross receipts and 16.1 million jobs.

It's also worth noting that many of the 1.1 million Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned firms across America are small businesses, which have always been the primary engines of job growth in America. Consider the fact that firms less than 5 years old accounted for nearly all new jobs in the private sector from 1980 to 2005. This is the power and promise of entrepreneurship.

It is this promise that draws millions of immigrants to our shores and diversifies our economy. It is this dream that motivates families and individuals to take a chance, be their own boss and start their own business. Last week's summit sought to open up these opportunities to more people.

Despite the success the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has had as a whole, many aspiring business owners continue to face linguistic and cultural challenges when it comes to accessing federal programs. Many still cannot get the small business loans and capital they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers, thus stifling the opportunity to contribute to our community, to our economy and to our future.

The White House summit started to change this dynamic by bringing together local Silicon Valley business stakeholders and top advisers from the White House National Economic Council, Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Department of Treasury and Export-Import Bank to discuss how we can expand opportunities and identify roadblocks to federal government programs in the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

In the months ahead, we can't know the exact shape economic recovery will take, but if history is any guide, the Asian American Pacific Islander community will be at the forefront of the innovation and business creation we need to put folks back to work. This summit is just one more important step down that path.

Michael Honda represents the 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is the Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Gary Locke is the U.S. secretary of commerce.