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Johnson Reaffirms GSA's Commitment to Aid Small Businesses in Government Contracting

As prepared for delivery.

Remarks by
Martha N. Johnson
U.S. General Services Administration
Small Business Fair
Atlanta, GA
April 13, 2011

Thank you, Shyam Reddy for that generous introduction.

It’s an honor to join dedicated public servants like Mayor Kasim Reed, Assistant Secretary E.J. Holland, and other dignitaries here.

I’m delighted to be here today, and it’s a privilege, as always, to speak with the small-business community here in Atlanta. I know that here in Atlanta and across the region, there are many terrific opportunities for small-business engagement on federal projects ranging from design to construction to maintenance to information technology and much more.

I want to salute the work that our Southeast Sunbelt Regional Office employees do to connect and partner with small businesses. Their work is terrifically important, and they do a great job. Thank you!

I bring greetings today from President Barack Obama and my colleagues in his administration.

Despite my current role as the head of one of the world’s largest purchasers, I have a personal connection to small business. I have worked at a small architecture firm, a diversity consulting firm, an executive search firm, and a strategy firm, so I’m sensitive to the challenges that you face as the owners and operators of small businesses.

The U.S. General Services Administration is excited to be a critical player in forwarding President Obama’s small-business agenda. Our mission is to use our expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions, and by so doing, foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.

In other words, we support the Department of Veterans Affairs so that it can support our veterans. We provide infrastructure for the Department of Education so that it can focus on educating tomorrow’s leaders.

GSA’s customer base is broad, ranging from the federal judiciary to federal agencies to state and local governments, and we’re committed to providing best-value solutions to each of them. This gives GSA a unique strategic positioning within the government as we work both with our customers – public organizations and government agencies – and with our suppliers – industry and private firms.

We play an important role in transferring knowledge and interpreting market messages for our clients and in transmitting their needs and operational requirements to the private sector. Under ordinary circumstances, this is a big job. But these are not ordinary circumstances.

Our country faces serious challenges both at home and abroad.

Our troops need support, our veterans need care, our children need good schools, and our infrastructure needs an upgrade. Too many Americans still feel the terrible anxiety of unemployment, and we have a long way to go before our economy is back on its feet again.

That said, we are seeing encouraging news. Two years after a terrible recession, our economy is growing, and showing real signs of strength. For the fourth month in a row, the unemployment rate has dropped, now to 8.8 percent in March. March’s employment report also shows that the private sector added 230,000 jobs in industries ranging from manufacturing to education to construction.

To continue to encourage this growth, President Obama has set an ambitious course for the government and for the nation. In his State of the Union address, he said: “The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still.” He continued, “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

We can’t win the future with a government of the past. That’s why the conversation we have today and the robust partnerships we develop between industry and government are so important.

After all, such partnerships are responsible for some of the greatest advances of the last century. Working together, industry and government have mapped the smallest particles – the human genetic code – and peered into the vast reaches of the universe.

Together, we have brought cars, airplanes, and computers to millions of people; lifted untold numbers out of poverty; put a man on the moon; and built the finest universities in the world. Together, America has led the world from the industrial age to the information age. And now we must look further still.

To achieve the president’s goal, to win the future, we need a government that works – and works well.

We need a government that works well at educating our children, that works well at building our infrastructure, that works well at fostering American innovation.

And we need a government that works well at supporting the engine of our economy: small business.

Small businesses create roughly two of every three new jobs in America each year. More than half of working Americans own or work for a small business, and small businesses drive American innovation and competitiveness. Yet, along with the middle class, small businesses have borne the greatest brunt of the difficult economy.

The president understands this, which is why he has directed his administration to support small businesses through landmark legislation like the Small Business Jobs Act and initiatives such as the Small Business Lending Fund and the Small Business Jobs Forum.

It’s why he has pushed for and signed more than a dozen different tax cuts for America’s small businesses over the last two years.

And it’s why we’re all here today.

At GSA, we take the small-business agenda seriously, and we’re working on it with all cylinders. In fiscal year 2010, GSA helped nearly 80 percent of the contracts on the Multiple Award Schedule Program go to more than 13,000 small business contracts.

Considering that this schedule is the government’s largest acquisition vehicle responsible for more than 10 percent of federal spending, that’s not chump change. And we’re not done yet.

So far in FY 2011, we have awarded more than half a billion dollars to small business, and we are on track to exceed subcategory targets such as Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUBZone; women-owned; and small disadvantaged businesses, just as we did in 2010.

By awarding billions of dollars in federal contracting to small businesses, we’re building on GSA’s long history of supporting some of the best companies in the country.

Two weeks ago, the Alliant Small Business Contract reached a milestone: 60 awards worth nearly $1 billion. And on our 8(a) STARS contract – the Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services contract – we have obligated more than $3 billion for more than 3,000 task orders. That translates into real earnings for our country’s small and small disadvantaged businesses. These two contracts underscore an important point about our philosophy toward small businesses, one that you know all too well: They may be classified as “small,” but there is nothing small about their ambition or capacity.

Around the country, businesses are working with GSA to help government agencies better serve the public. In return, government agencies are realizing the cast-iron value proposition of working with small businesses.

At GSA, we don’t want to just be the referee, determining who gets on our schedules. We also want to help you discover how to get on schedules, and, once you’re there, how to get business with the government. We want to link the partners and complete the handshake.

GSA is more than just the gatekeeper; we’re the counselor, the guide, and the go-to resource both for agencies and for small businesses.

So share your ideas with us. Let us know your challenges, the obstacles in your way. Communicate your frustrations – and your pleasant surprises.

Tell us how we can close the gaps between government and small firms, and in so doing, create a government that works ever better for the American people.

Thank you.

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