Thursday, January 31, 2008

Staples Names Sen. John Kerry Small Business Champion of the Year

This week, Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Inc. honored Sen. John Kerry [D-Mass.] with their Small Business Champion of the Year award for his 23 years of service in the U.S. Senate on behalf of America's 27 million small-business owners -- including Massachusetts' 650,000 small businesses. Kerry chairs the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

"I'm deeply honored to receive this award from Staples," said Kerry. "I'm working everyday in Washington to do just what we ought to do: level the playing field for small businesses, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship -- from Brighton to Boston, and from Salem to Springfield."

Staples, which began as a start-up in Brighton, Mass., in 1986 with 42 employees, used the Small Business Investment Company [SBIC] program, managed by the Small Business Administration [SBA], to fund its initial expansion. That investment helped spur Staples’ growth to become one of the largest office products suppliers in the world.

"Staples is a tremendous small-business success story," Kerry noted, "demonstrating the power of a public-private partnership that uses a federal small-business financing program to bolster the good idea and hard work of an entrepreneur."

Sen. Kerry was recognized for his leadership efforts to get several small-business initiatives signed into law last year. Among his achievements: Winning legislation to increase funding for core small-business programs; expand energy efficiency resources; secure permanent funding for successful Women's Business Centers; e.g., the Center for Women & Enterprise, in Boston, Worcester and Providence, R.I.; increase funding for small firms to develop military projects; and restore transparency to the Transportation Security Administration's contracting process. Presenting the award on behalf of Staples was Mike Miles, company president and chief operating officer.

This year, Kerry will continue to work on behalf of Massachusetts small businesses and entrepreneurs around the country by fighting to reduce health-care costs, increase access to capital, foster green technologies, and boost energy efficiency. He also aims to expand access to federal contracts – especially for underserved communities, including women, minorities and veterans.

SOURCES: Staples Inc., U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

House Committee Calls for Sweeping Reforms to SBIR Program; Velázquez Critiques President Bush's Final State of the Union Address

As the specter of a recession looms, small-business innovation becomes an increasingly vital asset to our economy. It was technology startups, after all, that led the way back to growth during our last slowdown.

During a hearing on the Small Business Innovation and Research [SBIR] program today, witnesses underscored its importance in ensuring American competitiveness. They also offered compelling evidence of a need to reform various parts of the initiative.

"SBIR is the largest government-wide research and development program, and it has helped turn some of the nation’s best ideas into tangible market realities," said Rep. Nydia Velázquez [D-N.Y.], chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business. "Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are still not getting the access to the R&D funds they need. That puts them at great disadvantage and robs our economy of the type of innovation we require most."

The SBIR was created by Congress in 1982, and is scheduled to sunset on Sept. 30, 2008. Throughout its history, the program has used small firms to help federal agencies meet their R&D goals. It has also fostered considerable technological innovation and prompted the commercialization of resulting products and services. However, as technology and national priorities change, the initiative is failing to keep pace.

"Even in a challenging economy, SBIR has helped small firms create jobs and wealth. We must continue to strengthen this program and align its focus with today’s technological realities," said Velázquez.

When the SBIR Reauthorization Act of 2000 was passed, technologies such as wireless communications, high definition television and hybrid cars were still in relative infancy. While that law made several modifications, the program is in need of further modernization. Witnesses also pointed to a need for increasing SBIR grants; suggested streamlining the application process; and called for greater flexibility to allow participating firms to leverage private-sector funds.

"One sure way to keep the American economy on the right track is to reform this initiative with an emphasis on providing resources for economically viable technologies," Velázquez noted. "We should increase competition within SBIR, ensure that awards go to projects that will produce the greatest return for taxpayers, and do everything possible to help today’s small firms bring forth tomorrow’s goods and services."

Velázquez: President Bush’s Final State of the Union Speech Falls Short on Proposals to Help Small Firms Spur the Economy
President George W. Bush delivered his final State of the Union address last night, and spoke about the bipartisan economic stimulus plan that Democrats negotiated on behalf of America’s entrepreneurs and working families. The $147 billion stimulus package is meant to spur the lagging economy, and includes short-term provisions to help small businesses. These include a one-year doubling of the capital expensing limit from $125,000 to $250,000, and an opportunity to write off 50 percent of depreciation for certain equipment purchases in 2008.

All are steps in the right direction, Velázquez observed, but President Bush needed to have spoken about long-term support for the 26.8 million small firms that comprise the economic engine of the United States. He mentioned small businesses only once, and those who tuned into his speech were left wondering if the final 50 weeks of his administration will be just like his first seven years—full of empty promises.

"The president has missed yet another opportunity to address the long-term concerns of small-business owners," said Velázquez. "In the face of a recession, it is clear that it is Democrats who will do whatever is necessary to help American entrepreneurs."

Several of the top concerns of small firms were particularly suspect in their absence from the president’s speech. He failed to adequately broach such items as health care, energy costs and the need for affordable capital.

"Everyone is feeling the credit crunch and rising costs, but entrepreneurs are being hit particularly hard," Velázquez noted. "That harms their ability to grow their businesses, and robs the economy of their full contributions.

"The president said we should empower people to grow the economy. Unfortunately, his State of the Union address failed to lay out a vision to do that."

SOURCES: Library of Congress, U.S. House Committee on Small Business, U.S. Small Business Administration, The White House [photo]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kerry Praises Small-Business Tax Incentives in Senate Economic Stimulus Bill

Today, Sen. John Kerry [D-Mass.] praised the Senate Finance Committee’s inclusion of small-business tax incentives in the economic stimulus package. Kerry introduced a bill last week to increase small-business expensing for 2008 and to increase the net operating loss carryback period. The Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the package Wednesday afternoon [Jan. 30].

“These targeted tax incentives will improve cash flow for small firms, which is critical for creating jobs and stimulating our economy, and help small businesses invest,” said Kerry, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “I applaud Sen. Max Baucus [D-Mont., pictured] for including these provisions which have bipartisan support, and look forward to working with my colleagues on the Finance Committee to finalize the economic stimulus package and get this much-needed assistance out to families and businesses as quickly as possible.”

Kerry’s bill, S. 2553, will increase the amount small businesses can write off their taxes for new investments this year from $125,000 to $200,000. It will also allow small firms a longer carryback period for net operating losses – increasing it from two to five years.

SOURCES: [photo], U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kerry Proposes Economic Help for Small Businesses

Sen. John Kerry [D-Mass.] will introduce legislation this week to provide much-needed assistance and an economic stimulus for small businesses facing tightening credit markets. His bill would provide targeted tax incentives to small businesses to encourage new investments, reduce fees on loans, and double funding for microloans. Kerry will work with his colleagues on the Committee on Finance to try and include the small-business tax provisions in the committee’s stimulus package.

"We need to look at ways to create jobs, and providing help to small businesses through targeted tax incentives and increased access to capital is one of the best steps Washington can take," said Kerry, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "Small businesses already employ more than half of our country’s workforce, so we need to make sure that entrepreneurs have money in their pockets to continue to grow their businesses."

Sen. Kerry’s bill will increase from $125,000 to $200,000 the amount small businesses can write off their taxes for new investments for 2008 in order to encourage new investments this year. The bill increases the net operating carryback period for losses arising in taxable years ending in 2007 and 2008 from two years to five years. This will help struggling businesses with their cash flow.

In addition, Kerry’s legislation will reduce fees on borrowers and lenders to make credit more affordable, and provide incentive for lenders to make small-business loans. The bill will provide additional funding to leverage nearly $20 million in microloans, which proportionally benefit underserved communities, including women and minorities, more than traditional loan programs.

With banks and lenders becoming more risk-averse, the federally backed loans -- which provide guarantees of anywhere from 50 to 85 percent -- will be increasingly important to spurring economic lending in the small-business sector, so that entrepreneurs aren’t forced to finance their businesses with high-interest credit cards.

According to the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, loans are down 12 percent from this time last year in the largest government-backed small-business loan program, known as 7[a]. The Small Business Administration's 7[a] lending program is the largest source of long-term capital to small businesses in this country. SBAExpress loans — which are approved in weeks, not months, and therefore reflect current economic conditions more accurately — are down 23 percent.

SOURCES: Peace Corps Online [file photo], U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jan. 21 Marks National King Day of Service

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

Today, as we celebrate the birthday of the great Martin Luther King Jr., we're reminded of Dr. King's walk-his-talk message of service. Since President Bill Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act on Aug. 23, 1994, King Day of Service has been a nationwide effort to transform the federal holiday honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into a day of community service that helps to solve social problems. On Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, our nation takes time to commemorate Dr. King's legacy from coast to coast.

Dr. King recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals. Next Monday's King Day of Service honors that legacy by seeking to transform the holiday from simply a day off from school or work for millions of Americans, to a day ON – that is, a day of community service that strengthens communities, empowers individuals, and bridges social barriers.

All types of service are encouraged, with the hope that participants continue to serve throughout the year. The service may meet a tangible need; e.g., fixing up a school or senior center. Or, it may meet a need of the spirit; e.g., building a sense of community or mutual responsibility. Ideally, service projects and activities will include reflection on the life and teachings of Dr. King, as well as how volunteer service is one means of addressing his concerns.

King Day Has Consistently Grown Since 1995
King Day of Service has grown steadily since its inception in 1995, as people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are encouraged to get involved in their communities in some way.

In 2007, hundreds of thousands of volunteers in cities and towns across the nation participated in thousands of King Day service projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Highlights included:
* Los Angeles, where 85 community partners -- including many small businesses -- worked together to engage an estimated 40,000 volunteers in a variety of projects;
* Philadelphia, where more than 55,000 volunteers participated in more than 600 projects citywide;
* Atlanta, Dr. King's birthplace, where more than 7,000 volunteers took part in 100 service projects; and
* Washington, D.C., where about 10,000 volunteers served at 80 project sites.

Corporation Holds Annual Grant Competition
Each year, the Corporation for National and Community Service, through a small number of intermediary organizations, awards more than $500,000 in grants to groups across the country planning to stage service projects related to King Day of Service. For information on grant fund availability, go to

The Corporation for National and Community Service is the lead government agency supporting and promoting King Day of Service. As such, the corporation offers grants, toolkits, and a variety of other resources to organizations that want to organize King Day projects.

King Day of Service also is supported by numerous national nonprofit organizations, including:
* American Red Cross
* America's Promise
* Arizona Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism
* Big Brothers Big Sisters
* City Year
* The Corps Network
* Do Something
* First Book
* Habitat for Humanity International
* Hands On Network
* HOPE Worldwide
* National Alliance of Faith and Justice
* Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network
* Service for Peace
* United Way of America
* Volunteer Match
* Youth Service America

National corporate sponsors include:
* Bank of America
* Best Buy
* Cargill
* Clear Channel Communications
* Comcast
* UPS Foundation

Resources Available to Promote King Day
A wide variety of free King Day resources for individuals, organizations, and King Day projects is available at These include:
* Complete MLK Day Toolkit -- including background on the holiday, project development tips, and sample projects and schedules
* Media outreach tips and materials -- including sample editorials and letters to the editor
* Partnership outreach materials -- including "Now Is the Time," a six-minute video promoting King Day of Service to potential partners
* Marketing materials -- including logos, posters, flyers, T-shirts, event ads, Web banners, and a photo library
* Latest news and updates
* My MLK Day -- a Web portal for organizations to register and promote their King Day projects, sign up and manage community volunteers, and to report results
* Project search for individuals to find and sign up for a project near them

To register your project, or to find a list of projects taking place around the country, go to For more information or answers to questions about materials posted at, e-mail

SOURCE: Corporation for National & Community Service

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Kerry, Snowe Lead Push for Energy Efficiency Funding for Small Businesses

Yesterday, Sens. John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, urged the Bush administration to invest more resources to help small businesses become more energy efficient and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Although small businesses represent half of the nation’s economy and are responsible for half of the country’s energy consumption, the government spends less than two percent of the ENERGY STAR® program’s $50 million annual budget reaching out to help small businesses. Sens. Joe Lieberman [I/D-Conn.], Mary Landrieu [D-La.], Maria Cantwell [D-Wash.], Norm Coleman [R-Minn.], and Jon Tester [D-Mont.] joined Kerry and Snowe in calling for a larger commitment to helping small firms.

“There’s no greater threat to the Earth than global climate change, but by leaving small businesses out of the solution, the Bush administration shows they’re not serious about tackling the problem,” said Kerry. “Small businesses can lead the way toward a cleaner, greener future, so the least the federal government can do is dedicate $2 million -- just 4 percent -- of ENERGY STAR® funds to help entrepreneurs reduce their energy costs and foster green innovation.”

“As the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and as a longstanding steward of the environment,” said Sen. Snowe, “I am alarmed by the administration's lack of commitment to promoting small-business energy efficiency.

“According to a National Small Business Association [NSBA] survey, 40 percent of small businesses are still not familiar with the ENERGY STAR® product label and technical support programs that are available. And at a Committee hearing last year, the Environmental Protection Agency testified that it has only two full-time employees devoted to the ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program. I am pleased to join my bipartisan colleagues in urging the Administration to properly fund the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® small-business program.”

In a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], which implements the ENERGY STAR® program, the senators urged the Bush administration to increase funding for the ENERGY STAR® small-business program to $2 million a year, in order to provide technical assistance and resources necessary to small businesses.

Sens. Kerry and Snowe successfully secured provisions to aid small firms in becoming more energy efficient in the energy bill that the Senate will vote on in the near future. The provisions will:
* Require the Small Business Administration [SBA] to implement within 90 days an energy efficiency program that was mandated in the Energy Policy Act of 2005;
* Establish an audit program to increase energy efficiency, using Small Business Development Centers [SBDCs];
* Promote financing agreements between small businesses and utility companies to increase energy efficiency;
* Create a telecommuting pilot program at the SBA responsible for educational materials and outreach to small businesses on the benefits of telecommuting;
* Allow small businesses conducting energy efficiency or renewable energy research and development to be given priority consideration in the Small Business Innovation Research [SBIR] and Small Business Technology Transfer [STTR] programs; and
* Establish loans for small firms to invest in use of renewable sources of energy in their business.


The full text of the letter to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson follows:

January 2, 2008

The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Administrator Johnson:

The issue of climate change has moved front and center in the national dialogue about our environment, our security, and our economy. CEOs from several Fortune 500 companies are bringing big business into the discussion, joining with environmental groups and urging the federal government to pass legislation and require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that small businesses, which represent 50 percent of the nation’s economy, have just as big a stake in contributing to climate change solutions.

This year, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has paid particular attention to the effects of climate change and escalating fuel costs on small businesses, and the role America’s entrepreneurs can play in affecting change in these areas. Our committee has already devoted two hearings during the 110th Congress to these subjects.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Small Business Association, 75 percent of small businesses believe that energy efficiency can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, only 33 percent of those had successfully invested in energy efficiency programs for their businesses. In fact, only 60 percent of the respondents to the survey reported being familiar with the ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program at the Environmental Protection Agency.

We need to significantly improve energy efficiency investment by small businesses. To that end, we worked to include provisions in the Clean Energy Act of 2006 that take great strides in this direction. These provisions promote financing agreements between small businesses and utility companies to increase energy efficiency; allow small businesses conducting energy efficiency or renewable energy research and development to be given priority consideration in the Small Business Innovation Research [SBIR] program; and establish loans for small firms to invest in use of renewable sources of energy in their business.

The 26 million small businesses in the United States comprise 99.7 percent of all domestic employer firms, and consume approximately half of all the commercial and industrial energy in the United States. In each of the last five years, the ENERGY STAR® program has received approximately $50 million in annual funding.

Regrettably, of this $50 million appropriation, less than two percent has been allocated to the ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program, which is responsible for reaching the entire small-business community. Clearly, this inadequate percentage grossly underestimates the critically important role small businesses could play in improving our nation’s energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint.

We believe that the time has come for small businesses to play a leading role in combating climate change and reducing our carbon footprint in the future. To achieve these results, we urge the administration to fund the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® for Small Business program at a minimum of $2 million annually. This would provide small businesses with the funding, technical assistance, and resources necessary to improve small-business energy efficiency.


John F. Kerry
Olympia J. Snowe
Joseph Lieberman
Mary Landrieu
Maria Cantwell
Norm Coleman
Jon Tester

GoodBiz113's take: Bravo! As the issue of climate change finally takes center stage -- environmentally, economically, socially and geopolitically -- we applaud Sen. John Kerry's Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship for its bold move to press the EPA and Bush administration for ENERGY STAR® program funding that incentivizes America's 26.8 million small businesses to do our fair share in optimizing global energy resources.

SOURCES: Library of Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

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Entrepreneur Magazine and OPEN from American Express® Name Katrina Markoff as 2007 Woman of the Year

Last week, Katrina Markoff, owner/chocolatier of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, was announced as the 2007 Entrepreneur magazine and OPEN from American Express® Woman of the Year. Markoff will accept her award and speak at the next "Women in Charge: Winning Strategies for Women Business Owners" conference, to be held in Miami Beach, Fl., on Jan. 29, 2008.

Entrepreneur's editorial staff and OPEN from American Express® chose Markoff for her creativity, solid business acumen and passion for her community. Markoff turned inspiration into a highly successful business by using her culinary passion to create an entirely new chocolate experience with Vosges Haut-Chocolat.

This Woman of the Year first discovered she had a passion for trying new flavor combinations while attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She later began experimenting with exotic ingredients for truffles like wasabi, anise and ancho chili powder, eventually leading her to start her gourmet chocolate company in 1998. The unusual flavors in her chocolates have helped her make her mark -- one worth almost $12 million in 2007 sales alone.

Markoff has made sure to grow her business with the environment in mind -- Vosges Haut-Chocolat's headquarters is run with 100 percent renewable energies. She's also planning to attain LEED platinum-level certification as well, a special recognition for sustainable green building and development practices with the U.S. Green Building Council.

"Katrina is the total embodiment of the creative, passionate and socially conscious entrepreneur," says Rieva Lesonsky, senior vice president and editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine. "She is a wonderful example of how entrepreneurial success can be achieved while maintaining a sense of connection to community and responsibility for the environment."

As the Woman of the Year, Markoff will share her insights with other women business owners during the luncheon portion of the Women in Charge conference, designed by Entrepreneur. This one-day, second-annual event will feature breakout sessions, speakers, giveaways and special opportunities for women entrepreneurs looking to start a business or make one grow.

"OPEN from American Express® is committed to supporting initiatives that empower women entrepreneurs," says Marcy Shinder, vice president, OPEN from American Express®. "We are proud to partner with Entrepreneur magazine to recognize and celebrate Katrina's success. She is among the growing number of women business owners across the country who are achieving their vision and making positive contributions to the economy and their communities."

Markoff is featured in the January 2008 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, on newsstands now. For more information on the Women in Charge conference and to register to attend for free, visit

About Entrepreneur Media Inc.
Entrepreneur Media Inc. is the premier content provider for and about entrepreneurs. Its products engage and inspire every day with the advice, solutions and resources that fuel the bold and independent way entrepreneurs think.

After 30 years, nobody reaches more growing businesses. As the original magazine for the small and midsize business community, Entrepreneur continues to be the definitive guide to all the diverse challenges of business ownership. is the most widely used website by entrepreneurs and emerging businesses worldwide. Entrepreneur Press publishes the books that turn entrepreneurial skills into business success.

About OPEN from American Express®
OPEN from American Express® is dedicated exclusively to the success of small-business owners and their companies. OPEN supports business owners with unparalleled service. With tailored products and services, the team delivers purchasing power, flexibility, control and rewards to help customers run their business.

Specifically, business-owner customers can leverage an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings -- including charge and credit cards, business gift cards, convenient access to working capital, robust online account management capabilities, and savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners. To obtain more information about OPEN®, visit, or call 1-800-NOW-OPEN to apply for a card or loan. Terms and conditions apply.

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SOURCES: American Express, Entrepreneur Media Inc., For the Love of Chocolate [photo]

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