WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) announced today that she will chair the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship for the 108th Congress. Snowe has been a member of the Committee since coming to the Senate in 1995, and previously served as a member of the Committee on Small Business in the U.S. House of Representatives. Snowe will succeed Senator Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), who will become chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, which will oversee the reauthorization of the federal highway funding law in the coming two years. Snowe will assume the post when the 108th Congress convenes in January 2003.
"I look forward to the challenge of chairing a Senate Committee in the coming Congress, particularly on a matter as crucial to Maine as small business. Having served as a member of the Committee throughout my time in the Senate, and earlier on its House counterpart, I am eager to tackle an ambitious agenda that will ease the challenges small businesses face in finding affordable health insurance for their employees, grappling with government red tape, and accessing the credit and trade opportunities they need to grow and prosper," said Senator Snowe, who has been repeatedly recognized as a "Guardian of Small Business" by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) for her support for small business issues.
"Small businesses are the most successful tool we have for job creation, providing roughly 67 percent of initial job opportunities in the country as our original - and finest - job training program. Unfortunately, I have found that despite the role small businesses play in growing our economy, government too often frustrates their efforts. I intend to focus my attention as chair on relieving this pressure, and opening new opportunities for entrepreneurs," she said.
Snowe said her priorities will include:
Assuring access to affordable health insurance for small businesses and their employers; entrepreneurs, including farmers and fishermen. Providing regulatory and tax relief for small businesses. Helping small businesses enter foreign markets so they can expand and grow. Encouraging further growth and entrepreneurship in women-owned small businesses. Improving access to capital for small businesses. Increasing access and utilization of new technologies and e-commerce by small businesses. Assuring improved availability of worker education and training. Nationally, the estimated 13 to 16 million small businesses account for more than 99 percent of all employers, employing more than half of American workers. Small businesses play a central role in the nation's economic expansion. From 1992 to 1996, for example, small firms created 75 percent of new jobs - an increase of 10.5 percent, as compared to just 3.7 percent for corporate expansion. Snowe noted that female entrepreneurs are starting new firms at twice the rate of men, and currently own almost 40 percent of all firms in the U.S. About 8 million women-owned firms in the U.S. contribute $2.3 trillion annually to the economy, and employ 18.5 million people - about one in five workers.
Small businesses play a particularly central role in Maine's economy. Of the state's 37,000 employers, about 97 percent are small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and these businesses account for creation of virtually every new job. Entrepreneurship also prospers in Maine, with an estimated 73,000 self-employed workers.