08/20/2010 04:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Small and Minority-Owned Businesses Should Help Drive the U.S. Economy Out of the Ditch

While Wall Street financiers reap healthy profits off the backs of a bailout that U. S. taxpayers paid for and while leading U. S. businesses that could hire, incredibly, refuse to hire for reasons that make no sense to me and millions of out of work Americans, I, for one, have had enough.

I'm tired of Wall Street benefiting while Main Street USA--and far too many of those Americans who suffer in silence on our nation's side streets--wait in frustration for a good faith show of support from those who've benefited from the American taxpayers.

To riff off one of our President's favorite talking points, for those leaders who are serious about putting America's economic interests in "drive," I believe the keys to our nation's economic engine should be put in the hands of small business owners--especially the growing legion of innovative African American, women- and minority-owned business owners that have a proven track record of reinvesting their talent, their financial investments and their jobs in local communities.

And I'm not just talking about, it I'm doing something about it.

Next week, from Monday through Friday, my Chicago District Office staff, in partnership with the U. S. Small Business Administration and a leading coalition of public and non-profit civic organizations, will work every day to provide hands on, free advisory support services for small business owners whose needs and interests are very diverse. Some may need a hand in walking through the occasional "policy weeds" of the federal bureaucracy while others may need information on how to connect with like-minded business owners that will point them in the right direction on how to access the resources that are necessary to build their businesses.

While we call this event the "Illinois First Congressional District Business Week," it really marks the natural progression of years of continued service my staff and I have provided to those small business leaders and constituents who'd like to own, or help build, a small business. Sometimes the simple act of helping individuals gain access to information about their chosen market helps instill confidence as they continue to move forward by taking the steps necessary to bring their dreams to life.

My office's support for small business is one of the most important services my staff and I provide because, in so many ways, it makes a difference that continues to ripple throughout my district, my state and, often, in our nation.

Simply put, Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) have long served as a cornerstone of our nation's economy. For decades these businesses have been a model for growth and development through even the leanest of economic times. In 1969, the United States had 322,000 MBEs contributing $10.6 billion in total gross receipts to the economy. In 2007, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of MBEs had grown to 5.8 million, pouring approximately $1 trillion in revenue into our nation's economy.

Domestically, MBEs have also been a driver of job creation. In 2002, MBEs employed 4.7 million people. By 2007, that number had grown by more than 25 percent to 5.9 million. Between 2004 and 2007, young minority business executives created, on average, three new jobs within their first four years of existence. To put the growth of MBEs in perspective, between 2002 and 2007, the number of people employed by non-minority owned firms increased by only 2.3 percent.

What these figures indicate is that on the long road back for our nation's economy, MBEs are in the driver's seat. That's why they deserve our focus, not those business leaders who still cynically believe that putting their hand out for a taxpayer-financed bailout is the right thing to do while, at the same time, shipping much needed American jobs overseas. This kind of behavior, I think, is simply un-American.

As chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, I've made it a priority to help shine a spotlight on the tremendous trade and investment opportunities that exist between the U.S. economy and global economies throughout the world--especially those found in Africa and Cuba. Just last week, the Obama Administration announced that it's preparing a set of measures that would expand opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba and send money there, something my colleagues and I in the Congressional Black Caucus called for months ago. I am also pleased that the Administration has extended its hand to the leaders of the assorted democratic nations in Africa.

As a leader and as a pastor, I work tirelessly to inspire our young people to see themselves not just as Americans but as citizens of a global economy--a vast global economy that is growing in Africa and other parts of the world. I can only imagine the innovation that could stem from urban communities throughout our nation if we could inspire our youth to lay down their weapons and to open their minds to books and other sources of entrepreneurial knowledge that would continue to spur economic growth in America and beyond.

As has been documented by the Small Business Administration and other sources, while MBEs enjoy exponential growth at home, it is on the global stage that MBEs are primed and ready to make an impact. Why?

Because MBEs have the potential to have a major impact in the global marketplace as they are twice as likely to generate sales through exports as non-minority firms.

The Minority Business Development Agency is keenly aware of this fact and has made it the central theme of their hallmark event MED Week 2010 to be held in Washington, DC, August 25 - 27, 2010. The conference, with the theme "Strategies for Growth and Competitiveness in the Global Economy," will allow minority entrepreneurs to participate in workshops and forums geared towards helping MBEs access the global marketplace. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet with embassy leaders from Latin America, South Africa, and China at evening networking events.

Next week, as the Obama Administration leads in this arena, on the national stage, I am grateful to those participating organizations who are working with me and my staff to make our Chicago event a success. I challenge my colleagues, on both sides of the political aisle, to do the same.

Honestly, who can seriously argue with the value of putting the economic keys to our nation's future prosperity in the hands of those who will reinvest our investment in them with those who want to work right here at home? Certainly no one who's serious about wanting our nation's economy to improve.

For information on our Chicago small business series, please visit:

To register for the MED Week Conference and Pre-Conference activities, please visit: