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Velázquez Says Infrastructure Reform Must Consider Small Firms

Washington, March 6, 2019

Washington, D.C.—Today, House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) convened a panel of witnesses to discuss the top priorities facing the small business sector as the House moves closer to taking up infrastructure reform.

“Despite America’s strong legacy of innovation, when it comes to infrastructure, by many measures, we are failing to keep up with the growing demands of our modern society,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “Whether it’s the high-speed internet connection that has not yet reached our rural communities to the outdated and crumbling tunnels that connect our cities—decades of neglect and lackluster investments have allowed our infrastructure to fall apart and fall behind other advanced economies, and at a cost to commerce and small businesses.”

From the ability of small construction and manufacturing firms to access the federal procurement marketplace to investing in projects that expand broadband and rebuild roads to open small businesses to new markets, the intersections between small business and infrastructure are vast. As discussed at the hearing, expanding a skilled workforce is also critical to ensuring small contractors can compete with larger companies as 78 percent of construction firms report difficulty locating skilled workers.

“Small businesses continue to be the driving force of our nation’s economy,” said Terri L. Williams, Director of the University of Texas at San Antonio Procurement Technical Assistance Center. “They employ 58.9 million people which accounts for 47.5% of total employees and are responsible for creating 1.9 million net new jobs.  Small businesses also hire 43% of all workers in the high-tech sector and produce 13 times as many patents per employee as large firms in high-tech industries.  However, this cannot continue to be sustained or increased without investment in infrastructure to help small businesses be competitive with their counterparts.”

“Robust broadband networks are vital infrastructure for the 21st century, particularly for small businesses and the consumers they serve,” said Tim Donovan, Senior Vice President, Legislative Affairs at the Competitive Carriers Association. “These businesses rely on connectivity to provide a digital storefront to reach customers in their communities and around the world.  In addition to connecting with consumers, wireless services have revolutionized how entire industries operate. For example, farmers deploy precision agriculture technologies to increase yields while preserving finite resources. While too many rural areas and small businesses remain on the wrong side of a persistent digital divide, decisions made by policymakers today can either launch new innovation and economic growth or exacerbate insufficient broadband access, leaving rural America behind.”

“This is a timely hearing,” said Roseline Bougher, President & CEO of A.D. Marble, a small environmental and engineering firm. “I believe Congress has a unique opportunity in 2019 to pass major infrastructure legislation to modernize the nation’s transportation, water, energy, and communications systems to enhance U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace and provide robust contracting opportunities for small businesses like mine.”

“Small businesses, almost by definition, are closer to their customers than larger companies,” said the Honorable Kris Knochelmann, Judge Executive and President, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. “The currency of my small business is not only the American dollar, but, the trust I must have with my customers who live on my street, in my neighborhood and around my region. If my employees are stuck in traffic and cannot be on time for an appointment, my customer can easily find my competitors by pressing a button on their cell phone. If my fuel costs rise because of wasted time in traffic, I cannot pass them on to unknown stockholders. My employees and I bear the brunt of lost dollars due to poor infrastructure.”

“All of us have an obligation to ensure there is adequate federal infrastructure investment and guarantee our nation’s long-term competitiveness in the global economy,” said Chairwoman Velázquez.  “Accordingly, a robust and well-planned investment in our infrastructure should benefit small businesses – both as end users of these networks and by creating business opportunities for them.”

Witness testimony from today’s hearing can be found here.

A video recording of the full hearing can be found here.




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