02/17/2013 06:14 pm ET Updated Apr 19, 2013

Igniting the Engine of Economic Growth

Yesterday, I was in Memphis, Tenn., visiting the West Tennessee Ornamental Door Company, a thriving manufacturer of steel security doors, fences and gates for homes and businesses. The company received SBA loans to support the working capital needs of their business -- and it's now positioned for growth and to create more jobs.

As I walked the shop floor, talking with owner Jim Hoffa, it was hard not to be bullish about our economic potential and the role that America's entrepreneurs and innovative small businesses play in our nation's economic growth and long-term global competitiveness.

Entrepreneurs are at the heart of America's identity and the key to our economic strength. They are what built the greatest economy in the world and the strongest middle class.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a series of strategic investments designed to strengthen America's entrepreneurial infrastructure and to ensure that small business owners have the tools, resources, workforce and business environment they need to drive momentum, innovation and energy into our economy.

These include investing in skills training for American workers, strengthening our growing manufacturing sector and improving our nation's aging infrastructure to make sure businesses in the U.S. have a competitive foundation from which to run their operations and to export to newly opened markets around the globe.

The president also built on his commitment to streamline and simplify the tax code for small businesses and to reduce the burden for tax compliance. It is part of broader efforts to make interacting with the federal government easier and more efficient for entrepreneurs and for businesses of all sizes. As the president said, "the American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring."

President Obama also laid out a comprehensive plan to grow our nation's manufacturing sector, which has created almost 500,000 jobs over the last three years, the most for any such period since 1996. The plan calls for creating a series of manufacturing innovation institutes that will help fuel regional innovation and create new business opportunities. These institutes will work closely with the Departments of Defense and Energy to create hubs for high-tech jobs and ensure, as the president said, "that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America."

As part of these efforts, the SBA is working to build capacity in America's small business supply chain. We know a strong, deep supply chain of innovative small businesses creates a competitive advantage for U.S.-based manufacturers--both large and small--and can drive decision-making around insourcing production back to the U.S. At the SBA, we are working with our partners across the federal government to ensure that small businesses have the tools they need to be effective suppliers and to scale their operations.

For example, West Tennessee Ornamental Doors, which I visited yesterday, used SBA assistance to expand their sales to businesses and customers nationwide. They also purchased a new facility which has given their business the room to grow, to eliminate inefficiencies, and to lay the groundwork for future expansion and hiring to meet customer demand. Today, the company's product lines can be found in major home improvement chains, such as Lowe's and Menards.

In his speech, the president also reiterated the need for Congress to pass legislation that creates an immigration system that works for American workers and businesses. Immigrants over-index in entrepreneurship and, as the president said, comprehensive immigration reform will allow us to "attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy."

At the SBA, and across the Administration, we are making sure that small businesses and entrepreneurs can plug into opportunities across our growing economy by providing access to capital, to entrepreneurial skills training and to programs that connect small businesses to export markets around the globe and to business opportunities here at home.

One of the small business owners we've worked with was in the First Lady's Box for the State of the Unions. Her name is Deb Carey, and she is the owner of New Glarus Brewing Company. Deb used an SBA 7(a) loan to help build and scale her business, and today she has more than 50 full-time employees. Her beer is so good that at a recent meeting with small business owners at the White House, the president made sure to share his White House homebrew to get her expert opinion.

By empowering small business owners like Deb, and expanding the entrepreneurial playing field to more regions of the country, we can ensure that the U.S. remains a magnet for jobs, talent and economic opportunity.

All across the country small business owners and entrepreneurs are ready to go on the offensive. They are ready to do what they do best: scale their operations and create good jobs. And the president laid out a broad-based economic growth agenda last night that will give them the tools, the skills and the workforce to make that possible.