Monday, January 29, 2007

Cuisine Concepts at Heart of Taste of the NFL -- AKA "Super Bowl Party...With a Purpose" -- to Tackle Hunger in America

The Company
Cuisine Concepts, LLC
3910 West 50th Street
Edina, MN 55424
Phone: [952] 926-7478

Founded: 1994
Employees: 210

Contact: Wayne Kostroski, Co-Owner, Cuisine Concepts; Founder & Executive Director, Taste of the NFL:

The Business
Cuisine Concepts operates and manages some of the most popular eateries in Minneapolis -- including Tejas, Bar Abilene in Uptown Minneapolis, and Franklin Street Bakery. The company also provides professional foodservice management and consulting services -- e.g., new-product development; management of new and existing facilities; training and staffing; menu development.

The Buzz
Cuisine Concepts' restaurants consistently receive accolades from local, regional and national food critics, editors and top travel guides. Its growing list of consulting-services clients features such diverse and prestigious organizations as Brunswick Corporation, Marshall Field's, Minnesota Zoo, Science Museum of Minnesota, University of Minnesota, and Walker Art Center.

The Catalyst
Co-owner Wayne Kostroski, a community-spirited restaurateur and business leader since the late 1970s, first got involved in addressing hunger in the mid-1980s. In 1986, Minneapolis' Uptown Association deemed that a jazz festival would be a good summer complement to its long-running Uptown Art Fair, a juried event that attracts a wide field of talented artisans and hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Kostroski thought that the new Uptown Jazz Festival -- replete with countless food and beverage vendors -- would present a highly visible opportunity to raise awareness of hunger, and partnered with the nearby Joyce Food Shelf to collect food and cash donations.

In 1988, Kostroski led the first Twin Cities Taste of the Nation, one of the first national Taste of the Nation events that brings together a city's top area chefs and guest out-of-town chefs. Each delectable dinner raises funds for Share Our Strength, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

Then, in 1992, while serving as president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association [now Hospitality Minnesota], Kostroski was tapped by Twin Cities movers and shakers -- namely, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairwoman and CEO of Carlson Companies, and Harvey Mackay, envelope magnate, best-selling author and motivational speaker -- to chair the restaurant committee for the Super Bowl XXVI Task Force. That led to Kostroski creating and producing the very first Taste of the NFL, held in Minneapolis. He's never looked back.

"I'm in the hospitality business," said Kostroski, who's since formed Hunger Related Events, an umbrella 501[c][3] not-for-profit for all TNFL events. "I know how food is grown, how it's served, and how it's distributed. There's obviously a need to do large-scale events like this, and I'm happy to be able to organize them."

The Strategy
When Kostroski proposed holding an annual fund-raising dinner that brings award-winning chefs and alumni players from each NFL city to the Super Bowl host city [starting with Minneapolis, in 1992] -- and to donate 100 percent of the funds raised to help fight hunger -- the reaction was a little, well, mixed. "Marilyn and Harvey were thrilled," he recalled. "They said, 'Okay. Go for it.'"

Kostroski's pitch to Jim Steeg, then-NFL senior vice president of special events, was met with reserved enthusiasm -- and a warning: "Well, all right," Steeg said. "Just don't mess it up."

The Partners
Kostroski proceeded to assemble a far-reaching network that included NFL team owners, players and alums; talented chefs from all 32 NFL cities; generous sponsors; hundreds of well-connected volunteers; and countless others. TNFL's targeted recipient, America's Second Harvest -- The Nation's Food Bank Network, also played a valuable role in promoting and supporting the event.

"That first year was remarkable," Kostroski recalled. "[Minnesota Vikings alums] Bob Lurtsema and Scott Studwell knew the players, I knew the chefs, and our Super Bowl XXVI Task Force members helped attract some major sponsors."

Indeed. Thanks to sponsors such as SuperValu, whose transportation package sponsorship covered the chefs' airfare in 1992, TNFL was able to donate all funds raised -- i.e., $90,000 from dinner tickets, merchandise sales, etc. -- to America's Second Harvest, and continues to every year.

The Process
Pondering that first TNFL success story 15 years ago, Kostroski shakes his head in amazement, then poses a rhetorical question: "Can you imagine being a five-star chef from some warmer climate -- say, Tampa, Dallas or L.A. -- on the receiving end of this invitation: 'We'll fly you into Minneapolis for four days during late January, and you pick up your own lodging and other expenses, then prepare one of your specialties at no charge for thousands of guests.'

"I mean, when you stop to think about it, it's really pretty bold and ridiculous. But they did it, and many continue to do this gypsy thing for every single Super Bowl -- along with our dedicated board members, caterers, concierges, etc. Throughout the year, some chefs even organize Taste of the NFL-related events in their own cities."

The Financials
To date, annual Super Bowl-related TNFL dinners have raised more than $6 million dollars for America's Second Harvest's 200 member food banks and food-rescue organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. "Most of the funds are donated directly to our member food banks across the country," explains Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of America's Second Harvest. "The national office receives about $35,000 each year to fund our Community Kitchen program, but the remainder goes to our food banks."

Escarra said that every dollar donated helps its food banks "provide about 20 pounds of food to those at risk of hunger." A little quick math tallies TNFL's heretofore contributions yielding more than 120 million pounds of food. "Taste of the NFL has helped provide tens of millions of meals to hungry Americans," she noted. "So, it is a very significant contribution to the work of our food banks."

Local TNFL events -- ranging from strolling wine-tasting-and-grazing socials, to sit-down dinners -- have raised additional funds for America's Second Harvest, plus other deserving groups that serve the hungry and homeless.

For example, this year's Minnesota Vikings TNFL Celebrity Dinner -- which Kostroski organized, along with Mark Haugen, TNFL chef director, Tejas chef and Cuisine Concepts co-owner -- attracted 1,000 guests and raised more than $500,000 for Hunger Solutions Minnesota. "Fifteen years later, Minnesota is still the highest net fundraiser for TNFL," Kostroski beams -- a testament to the state's philanthropic tradition.

The Upshot
Subsequent TNFL events have followed every year in the Super Bowl's host city, as well as in a handful of cities that have NFL teams. While many chefs, NFL alums and volunteers stay aboard from year to year, other dynamics -- e.g., team owners, coaches and, of course, Super Bowl host city locations -- change.

"Fortunately, I've learned that nothing is a sure thing," said Kostroski. "To do this, you need to develop some layers -- within each team and in every NFL community. When you do that and simply ask for peoples' support, they'll usually give it to you."

Case in point: Charles Fazzino, the eye-popping 3-D artist. For the seventh consecutive year, he's created a commemorative limited-edition 3-D print and open-edition poster for Super Bowl XLI. At this year's TNFL, he'll be signing works and donating a percentage of in-person and online print and poster sales to TNFL.

"Our mission statement -- 'To address the needs of the hungry and homeless by raising awareness and money through special events and programs' -- intentionally emphasizes awareness before money. By doing Taste of the NFL events, we raise awareness that hunger is an ugly, invisible and hidden disease in this country -- especially, among children and seniors. It's a disease that leads to other ills, too, such as poor health and under-educated people. After all, if your stomach is growling, it's hard to focus on learning.

"On the positive side, if you think about it, some of people's best experiences happen around food; it's a catalyst for bringing people together. As long as we can keep doing that, we'll be able to keep moving toward ending hunger."

Escarra, for one, is very grateful that Kostroski keeps managing to bring thousands of folks together each year. "Wayne is a terrific person," she praised. "He's a smart and creative businessman, and I've really been impressed by his commitment to help the less fortunate.

"America's Second Harvest is very fortunate to have a supporter like Wayne Kostroski, as well as his staff and volunteers who work so tirelessly. Taste of the NFL is a very special event. Consider that the Super Bowl is the biggest, most-watched sporting event of the year. Taste of the NFL helps us to be a part of it -- thereby raising awareness of the prevalence of hunger in America, and raising funds to help us fight hunger."

The Takeaway
Next Saturday, Feb. 3, no fewer than 3,400 guests are expected at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center for Taste of the NFL XVI. On the eve of Super Bowl XLI, they'll sip great wines and feast on delectable appetizers, salads, soups, entrees and desserts prepared by 32 of America's top chefs. [To see the list of chefs and recipes for the mouth-watering specialties they're presenting, go to and click on "Chefs."] All the while, TNFL guests will be helping people served by this year's local recipient, Daily Bread Food Bank of South Florida, an affiliate of America's Second Harvest.

"Wayne's concept of Taste of the NFL is a great example of 'thinking outside the box' -- and he did that long before that catch phrase was common," added Escarra. "I think the salient point here is that there are many, many ways to help raise funds for charities, and it never hurts to be creative."

Kostroski positively glows at the prospect of bringing folks together to move towards eliminating hunger once and for all. "How can someone feel this good?" he radiates. "If I didn't get involved -- even just a little bit -- how else could I get to meet so many great people, help others and get such an incredible education? If you don't get involved, you lose."

So, how much longer will Kostroski be involved in TNFL? "My wife, Eda, has asked me that a few times," he responds with a wry smile. "At this point, I guess the answer is, one, when Taste of the NFL has local fund-raising events in all 32 NFL cities; or, two, till the Minnesota Vikings are in the Super Bowl -- whichever comes first."

Every year, Kostroski speaks at various special events [e.g., college commencements, trade association meetings] to share his vision of the possible. His message? "Giving is good business, no matter what you do," he replied. "And don't wait till you're richer or more successful to do it.

"Ask yourself: Do you want to be a spectator, or get in the game? Everyone who has a talent -- whether you're a lawyer, plumber, electrician, chef, etc. -- can help out and do something. Don't do nothing waiting for something to happen."

Want to be a part of this year's Taste of the NFL tradition? Shop the TNFL Store:! There, you can buy TNFL tickets, merchandise [e.g., apron, cap, collector's pin], sporting goods, Charles Fazzino's 3-D prints, and the TNFL Restaurant Guide -- replete with profiles of this year's TNFL chefs and their top picks [150-plus total] of local restaurants...great for travelers! Remember: Sales receipts directly benefit America's Second Harvest -- The Nation's Food Bank Network.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bobby Shriver Provides Update on (PRODUCT) RED Campaign to Fund AIDS Programs in Africa

Editor's Note: One year ago, Bobby Shriver and U2 lead singer Bono announced their innovative (PRODUCT) RED initiative at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Since (PRODUCT) RED's official October rollout, more than $11 million has been raised from the sale of products marketed by GoodBiz113 ad partners American Express, Apple and Converse, plus Emporio Armani, Gap and Motorola. Following, is an update from Shriver, (PRODUCT) RED's CEO...

Last year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, we launched (PRODUCT) RED, an idea that had been taking shape for a couple of years. The premise was simple: create a brand that would put global marketing genius to work for people dying of AIDS in Africa.

We knew consumers were the key. The (RED) products had to excite and inspire them. First step was to gin up the corporate sector — to make them see (RED) the way we saw it.

Our goal all along was to “get the check” for Africa -- not just once, but over and over. The Global Fund’s goal is to receive 10% of its funding from the private sector, but it had raised less than 1% in its first five years. The road map to turn this tide was what we spoke about on January 26th, 2006, when we came to Davos with Dr. Richard Feachem, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, and four blue-chip global brands.

It’s been a hell of a year.

We started to build (RED) in the U.K., where the first-year objective was to launch and develop a brand that would engage and tap the creativity of iconic global companies. The results have been compelling, from the initial founding partner — American Express -- to the launch partners — Emporio Armani, Gap and Converse -- to the subsequent year one partners — Motorola and Apple. With six renowned brands demonstrating key differentiating positions, targets and products, (RED) ends year one in a strong position.

From March to September 2006, we concentrated on communicating the concept of (RED) and publicizing a relatively limited product offering.

In October, (RED) introduced its first full product offering from partners to coincide with its launch in the U.S. market. We are now heavily focused on delivering for the (RED) customer and the (RED) community. Now, the fun really begins. And the funds are flowing!

(RED) has delivered a total of $11,303,926 to the Global Fund thus far. Based on early conservative estimates, we believe that when holiday sales have been totaled, (RED) will have generated another $10 million for the Fund*. Two countries in Africa are the initial beneficiaries.

In Rwanda, (RED) money is supporting Global Fund-financed programs, which have already:
· Reached over 168,000 mothers with counseling and services to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV
· Trained over 1,000 healthcare providers in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
· Reached over 325,000 people with voluntary counseling and testing for prevention of HIV
· Trained almost 3,000 counselors to teach prevention of HIV
· Provided antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS to almost 16,000 people, including almost 3,600 infants and children
· Set up 41 health centers to deliver antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS

In the next two to three years, these programs aim to more than double the number of women reached with prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and to expand the reach of antiretroviral therapy from half the population to the entire country.

In Swaziland, (RED) money is supporting Global Fund-financed programs, which have already:
· Reached over 4,400 mothers with services to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV
· Trained over 150 midwives and doctors in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
· Equipped over 40 hospitals to provide services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV
· Reached over 140,000 people with voluntary counseling and testing for prevention of HIV
· Trained over 70 counselors to teach prevention of HIV
· Set up over 35 counseling and testing centers for prevention of HIV
· Established feeding schemes in 335 schools
· Built 154 community feeding centers
· Provided education support for over 36,000 vulnerable children
· Provided antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS to almost 15,000 patients
· Trained over 3,000 health workers to deliver home-based care for patients with HIV/AIDS

In the next two to three years, these programs aim to increase fourfold the number of women receiving treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; to offer comprehensive support for orphans; and to more than double the number of people currently on antiretroviral therapy.

What have we learned in this first year? Some details:
(RED) has had incredible media and consumer response in the U.K. and U.S.

The media reaction (RED) has enjoyed in year one in the U.K. has been phenomenal with in excess of £16 million worth of positive editorial media coverage -- including high-profile newspaper partnerships with The Independent and on-air partnerships with Sky.

Consumer awareness is high, particularly amongst urbanites and those predisposed to ethical shopping practices, and the response to engagement is very positive. We have found that the "sweet spot" for the target is 18-35 female/male split; the target varies depending on the product offering.

In the U.S., a PR launch on Oprah, Larry King, CNN and across the networks -- along with massive advertising campaigns from Gap and Motorola -- have driven awareness of the brand to 20% of the U.S. population. The aspiration to bring the issue of AIDS in Africa to the malls and main streets of America has been met.

For the future, we will be increasing our (RED) product partners in specific categories to provide consumers with compelling options across everyday, as well as premium, (RED) products in multiple markets around the globe. We will remain a brand that is dynamic — one that evolves to keep empowering customers who want to make their money work smarter. Most importantly, we will continue to be engaged in the fight against AIDS with the vision that this treatable, preventable disease can be eliminated.


Bobby Shriver

* Monies are sent directly from the Partners to the Global Fund. (RED) does not break down the figures by Partner in order to protect each Partner from competitor scrutiny.

Help support (PRODUCT) RED by buying a Sprint Power Vision Phone RED MOTORAZR V3m by Motorola today! In the U.S., each phone sale yields a $17 contribution made to The Global Fund.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Small Business Scores During 110th Congress' First 100 Hours; Debuts Today

Last Friday marked the end of the House Democratic leadership's 100-hour agenda. Within just two and-a-half weeks, the do-something 110th Congress passed all eight of its top priorities:

1] We will start by cleaning up Congress, ending the link between lobbyists and legislation. H.Res. 6, Title II, "Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Tenth Congress." Passed 430-1, Jan. 4th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: Now that Corporate America's direct link to lawmakers has been broken, the federal-contracting playing field should finally begin to level for small businesses. We've noticed that, since last Nov. 7, some prime contractors and federally funded agencies and institutions are now being more transparent and inclusive in their supplier-diversity and subcontracting practices.

2] We will commit to pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending. H.Res. 6, Title IV, "Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Tenth Congress." Passed 280-152, Jan. 5th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: This is a long-overdue, win-win-win for everyone. [How many of us -- as families, individuals, small-biz owners, entrepreneurs, etc. -- could continually budget our lives and businesses in the red?]

3] We will make our nation safer by implementing the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission. H.R. 1, "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007." Passed 299-128, Jan. 9th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: Again, a win-win-win for everyone -- blue, red and "purple" alike.

4] We will make our economy fairer, and start by raising the minimum wage. We will not pass a pay raise for Congress until there is an increase in the minimum wage. H.R. 2, "Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007." Passed 315-116, Jan. 10th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: Decently paid employees are happier employees. In the long run, that has a positive "trickle-up effect" on business owners' bottom lines.

5] We will promote stem cell research to offer real hope to the millions of American families who suffer from devastating diseases. H.R. 3, "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act." Passed 253-174, Jan. 11th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: It's a healthy move for everybody. Thank you, Michael J. Fox, for thoughtfully, generously and courageously promoting stem cell research -- even in the face of unthinkably mean-spirited ridicule.

6] We will make health care more affordable for all Americans, and we will begin by fixing the Medicare prescription drug program, putting seniors first by negotiating lower drug prices. H.R. 4, "Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act." Passed 255-170, Jan. 12th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: Healthy employees are more productive employees. Lower drug prices will help seniors stay healthy -- and, perhaps, free up some consumer dollars to spend.

7] We will broaden college opportunity, and we will begin by cutting interest rates for student loans in half. H.R. 5, "College Student Relief Act of 2007." Passed 356-71, Jan. 17th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: Well-educated students means well-educated professionals propelling our growing communities, technologies, businesses, schools, hospitals, not-for-profit groups, public agencies, etc. The more educated our citizenry is, the better it is for everyone.

8] We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil. H.R. 6, "Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act." Passed 264-163, Jan. 18th, 2007

GoodBiz113's stance: Aside from the fact that Big Oil should never have had subsidies in the first place [!], this move will help grow businesses that are committed to developing efficient and affordable alternative energy technologies [e.g., hybrid, solar, wind, biofuels, ethanol, hydrogen] AND reduce our deadly dependence on foreign oil.

Next up: tax reform. When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about taxes on ''Face the Nation,'' she replied that any tax increase would be limited to the wealthy. Taking back ''tax cuts for those making over a certain amount of money -- $500,000 a year -- might be more important to the American people than ignoring the educational and health needs of America's children,'' said Pelosi.

''We're not going to start with repealing tax cuts, but they certainly are not off the table for people making over half a million dollars a year," Pelosi noted. "It's an option; it's not a first resort.''

The Politico/ Debuts Today
Like to follow national politics? Then check out The Politico []. As of today, some of journalism's sharpest reporters and editors from such places as Time magazine, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Roll Call, The Hill, Bloomberg News Service, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today and The Washington Post will bring you the nation's top political stories.

Suggestion: Register at While all areas of are free to the public, registration will allow you to receive e-mail alerts, and to participate in chats and forums.

Happy policy-wonking!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New (RED) Impact Calculator Helps Tie Value of Purchases to AIDS Treatment in Africa

As GoodBiz113 reported last Oct. 15 and Nov. 30, the (PRODUCT) RED campaign to raise funds for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has made significant strides since its Fall 2006 rollout.

Together, (PRODUCT) RED founder and CEO Bobby Shriver, U2 lead singer Bono and their associates have signed top names -- e.g., American Express UK, Apple, Converse, Emporio Armani, Gap, Motorola -- to create (PRODUCT) RED-specific goods, from which a certain percentage of the profits go to the Global Fund.

According to preliminary tracking numbers, total (PRODUCT) RED sales in the U.S. during the first six weeks raised enough money to:
* Provide more than 40,000 men or women with anti-retroviral treatment for a year;
* Provide more than 2 million peer educators with HIV training;
* Provide a year’s worth of school materials and daily hot meals for more than 86,000 children orphaned by AIDS;
* Provide more than 1 million Rapid Tests, which detect HIV and deliver instant test results.

(PRODUCT) RED Impact Calculator Among Latest Innovations
Now, with the latest (PRODUCT) RED innovation -- the new (RED) Impact Calculator -- socially conscious consumers can find out the ways in which their (RED) purchases could affect people's lives in Africa.

For instance, let's say you bought an Apple iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition, two Gap (PRODUCT) RED T-shirts, two Gap (PRODUCT) RED Leather Bracelets, plus a Motorola (PRODUCT) RED MOTORAZR V3m Phone. Total profits would:
* Provide treatment for 200 pregnant women to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child;
* Provide anti-retroviral [ARV] treatment for two months to a person living with HIV.

The number of (PRODUCT) RED goods you've purchased can be input into the calculator and saved in your own (RED) profile, where you can login to update it anytime at:

You can also tell your friends and family about your (RED) Impact via customizable greeting cards that you can print and send. Check out (RED) Impact Cards today.

For more information about (PRODUCT) RED, go to:

iPod nano (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition. 4GB and 8GB Models Available for $199 an $249.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Jan. 15 King Day of Service Celebrates Birthday and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Everybody can be great because everybody can serve." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the very embodiment of community, equality and idealism. He expressed the highest dreams of humanity and showed us all by example what we can create when we set aside our differences and work together.

Each year since 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed into law the King Holiday and Service Act, Americans have marked this observance by devoting the day to service projects in their communities. Together, President Clinton and Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King's legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action, and reflecting on his life and teachings.

The King Day of Service brings together people who might not ordinarily meet, breaks down barriers that have divided us in the past, leads to better understanding and ongoing relationships, and is an opportunity to recruit new volunteers for ongoing service projects.

Participation in the King Day of Service has grown steadily during the past 12 years -- from a local project to a nationwide movement that perpetuates the life and teachings of one of America's greatest heroes. By renovating schools, cleaning up neighborhoods, tutoring and mentoring children, painting schools and senior centers, donating blood, delivering meals, building homes, organizing food drives, or reaching out in some other way to those in need, hundreds of thousands of citizens have worked together each year to make this a day on, not a day off, and made their own contributions to Dr. King's legacy of service.

How Your Company or Organization Can Help
Opportunities abound for businesses and organizations of all sizes and interests to contribute to their communities. By doing so, you will help strengthen local communities; bridge social and cultural differences; and demonstrate the compassion and commitment to make a difference and honor Dr. King's memory.

The Corporation for National & Community Service suggests the following ways to get inolved:
* Sponsor and organize a single service project
* Sponsor and organize a variety of service projects
* Form teams to vounteer
* Encourage friends, colleagues and families to seek out service projects in their hometowns

The late Coretta Scott King embraced the King Day of Service as a meaningful way to celebrate and honor her husband's legacy. She said, "The greatest birthday gift my husband could receive is if people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds celebrated the holiday by performing individual acts of kindness through service to others."

For information about making this year's celebration a day on which tens of millions of people come out to serve their communities in King's honor -- and/or about getting involved year-round -- visit the Corporation for National & Community Service's website:

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. Visit

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

GoodBiz113 Drafts Small-Biz Wish List for 110th Congress

On this, the eve of the Democrat-controlled, do-something 110th Congress, we small-biz champions at GoodBiz113 have a Lettermanesque Top 10 wish list for U.S. Senators and House representatives alike:

10] Ensure that federal contracts set aside for small businesses are, in fact, awarded to small businesses. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that many studies have shown that hundreds of government contracts set aside for small business are being awarded to large corporations.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., incoming chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has proposed giving the Small Business Administration more time to complete size determinations and to help prevent big businesses from slipping under the radar of a bureaucratic contracting process. The SBA recently required businesses to report their size every five years. Kerry's proposal would make the reports annual.

"The protest process is supposed to keep the system honest, but what's the point of protesting a contract if nothing happens?" Kerry said.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., the incoming chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, said she would work to rectify the problems faced by small businesses by ensuring that there is an effective protest system in place. She also wants to make sure that penalties are enforced.

"The fact that large businesses are being awarded with small-business contracts, and that there is no system in place with penalties or consequences for this, is extremely concerning," Velazquez said.

9] Require that federal contract-bidding and -award processes are totally transparent, and that all recipients of federal funds [e.g., public agencies, prime contractors, educational institutions] can instantly account for how dollars are being spent re compliance with small-biz and supplier-diversity statutory goals.

8] Hold federal agencies and prime contractors accountable for meeting small-business and supplier-diversity subcontracting statutory goals.

7] Require prime contractors and small businesses to endure the rigors of bidding on federal contracts. Read: No more multibillion-dollar, no-bid contracts -- e.g., for disaster relief, military/war-related products and services -- to be handed to corporate cronies of elected officials and/or administrators of federal agencies.

6] Boost small-business loan availability via SBA.

5] Overhaul No Child Left Behind. Academically, a lot of kids are getting left behind -- kids who will need to fill the jobs being vacated in droves by retiring baby boomers.

Physical education? Foreign languages? Art? Music? Drama? Sports? From coast to coast, those "complementary" body-, mind-, character- and spirit-shaping classes and activities have fallen by the wayside in far too many school districts.

Employers -- small and large alike -- need smart, articulate, well-rounded people to create, market and deliver products and services. Every child of every ethnic group, geographic location, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, thinking style, etc., deserves a fair shot at being one of those people who can effectively contribute to society.

4] Simultaneously promote energy independence and rural economic development. According to Jackie Gleason, rural business administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United States will spend $300 billion this year on importing oil — exceeding the entire U.S. farm output for the year. If farmers can successfully capture even 20 percent of that oil revenue, he said, it will yield revenue "greater than the total of net farm income" for the nation.

Incoming U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said promoting energy independence is her "No. 1 priority." Incoming U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said renewable energy offers the promise of keeping "the viability of our rural areas."

3] Make college more affordable by reducing interest rates on student loans. In order to grow our economy and be viable players in the global economy, we need well-educated women and men in all industries and sectors -- preferably, folks who don't have to stress about repaying student loans for years after earning their sheepskins.

2] Provide incentives for small-business owners to help make health care more affordable for their employees. Since Day One, Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz has provided health insurance for all his employees -- including full-time and part-time baristas. Success leaves clues...

1] Raise the minimum wage ASAP. Yes, we know that a fair number of small-business owners will bristle [curse?] at this notion. To those folks we say, just note how prosperous Horst Rechelbacher [Aveda, Intelligent Nutrients], Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield [Ben & Jerry's] and other entrepreneurs have become by sharing the wealth with their employees. Beyond being the right thing to do, it's a karmic thing; i.e., what you put out comes back at least tenfold.

Incoming House Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., who's been assigned to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, can hardly wait to cast her vote during the 110th's first 100 hours. "I'm honored to be able to vote for raising the minimum wage," she told New Hampshire's Portsmouth Herald News. "All of the research I've read says this is not only good for workers, but small-business owners, too. If people have more money, they will spend it in the local economy."

Happy New Year, 110th Congress! Best wishes for the most productive, peaceful, fair-minded and prosperous year this country has seen in, well, too long a while.