Houston Small Business Summit
Thank you, Commissioner Lehman.
It is an honor to be with so many men and women who have taken a courageous leap in pursuit of the American dream by starting a small business.
The fact that employment in Texas is at an all-time high is a direct result of the energy and talent and resources you pour into growing your small business each and every day.
It is great to see two true friends of small business from this area, Senator Tommy Williams and representative Martha Wong.
I want to thank the sponsors who made this Small Business Summit possible, including Humana, which has not only put together small business insurance packages, but gave generously of their resources to make this event possible.
Thanks go out today to eBay and Unisys as well for helping to defer today’s cost.
I also want to thank the Greater Houston Partnership for their commitment to this summit, and the Indo American Chamber of Commerce, which has brought several dozen attendees today.
In addition, there are 26 state agencies in attendance here today, all of whom are participating in today’s state procurement fair, which is an opportunity for many of you to bid on state contracts.
I greatly appreciate those agencies for serving as willing partners with the private sector.
While we are here to talk about how to make our small businesses prosper, foremost on our minds right now is the safety and security of the people of Southeast Texas.
Recent rains have brought dangerous flood conditions, and to date the state has activated a number of resources, including 50 large trucks manned by the Texas Army National Guard, 30 Parks and Wildlife rescue boats, seven swift water rescue teams from Texas Task Force One, our search and rescue team and both fixed wing and rotary aircraft.
We want to continue to urge Texans to be cautious and to avoid low-lying flood prone areas recognizing that flood conditions can materialize in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
The reason I proposed holding a series of small business summits around the state, including one here in Houston, is simple: the big job projects may get a lot of media attention, but the fact is, our economy is really powered by the small employers that make up 98 percent of businesses in Texas.
Every small business owner in this state can take pride in the fact that our business climate has been ranked the best in America by several national publications.
And employers across Texas can be proud that they have added more than 580,000 new jobs in less than three years.
The fact of the matter is, Texas prospers only when small business prospers.
And in the future, if Texas is to remain a place where jobs and opportunity are abundant, where the American dream is within reach for every family, and where government priorities are funded by a growing economy instead of a growing tax burden, then one of our greatest goals must be to help small employers succeed today.
I care passionately about helping employers grow and create jobs because I have signed both the back side and the front side of a paycheck.
And I am proud of the steps we have taken in recent years to create an environment in which small businesses are free to flourish.
One of the most important reforms of the last few years that will protect and create jobs, lower healthcare costs for employers, and return injured employees to their jobs sooner is our overhaul of the workers’ compensation system.
The goal of our workers compensation system should be to return healthy Texans to work as soon as possible, not see them languish in a system that doesn’t heal them and that costs you more money every year.
Part of the reason we worked to lower the cost of workers’ compensation is so that employers of all sizes will see it as a wise investment for their business.
We also cracked down on one of the top job killers across America... frivolous lawsuits.
By reforming procedures for asbestos lawsuits, Texas will no longer be the national haven for junk suits that put innocent employers out of business, and that force truly sick Texans to wait in line to have their claim heard in court.
We invested an additional $15 million in workforce training so that more Texans can develop the skills they need to be successful in the workplace, and so that employers can benefit from a larger pool of qualified candidates.
And we set aside $200 million for a new Emerging Technology Fund, and reauthorized the Texas Enterprise Fund with $180 million so that we can continue to attract long-term growth.
Each of these measures is important because they have removed many of the hurdles small businesses face on the road to success, and today my hope is that this summit will help you overcome some of the challenges that remain.
Later this afternoon, you will have the opportunity to meet with local lenders who can help provide the capital you need to finance growth.
You can get help writing or fine-tuning a business plan, find out how to save money with tax credits, and learn how to become certified as a Historically Underutilized Business.
But our goal at this summit is not only to help you plan for future growth, but to provide opportunities for growth today.
That is why, as I mentioned earlier, we have 26 state agencies present that want to create immediate as well as long-term opportunity for Houston-area small businesses by helping you submit bids on numerous state contracts.
I encourage every small business owner here to submit a bid because Texas is ready to do business with the best and brightest in this part of the state.
Whether it is for printing, construction, technical support or a wide variety of other opportunities, these state contracts represent millions of new dollars flowing through the local economy, and the catalyst that can help your business create new jobs and reach a new level of success.
I also want you to know that small business was foremost on our minds as we implemented tax reform last month.
That’s why we doubled the size of the small business franchise tax exemption from $150,000 to $300,000 in gross receipts.
Because of this change, a number of additional small businesses will pay nothing in taxes as they get their feet on the ground and grow.
In addition, we cut school property taxes by an average of 33 percent for every homeowner and employer in Texas by next year.
So if your small business has gross receipts of $300,000 or less, or is a sole proprietor or a general partnership owned by natural persons, your business tax liability will be zero and your property tax liability will substantially decline.
Furthermore, those businesses that owe as much as $1,000 under the reformed business tax will not be charged a cent.
And it is worth noting, for all other businesses that pay under this tax, that their tax liability declines every time they hire a new worker, invest in health insurance or fund worker pension plans.
And you can choose whichever deduction works best for you: the cost of payroll, or the cost of goods sold.
In exchange for reform of the business tax, here is what you are getting: not only a sharp reduction in your property tax burden, but a greater investment in public schools, which is training your future workforce.
We raised every teacher’s salary by $2,000, and created performance pay incentives of as much as $10,000 to recognize our most dedicated instructors.
And while meeting the court mandate of providing local districts enough discretion to raise additional revenue, we required that any rate hikes above four cents must go to a vote of the people.
The logic is simple: if additional school spending is justified, the people will approve.
And because of new transparency in budgeting provisions, the people will have a better idea of how well education dollars are spent in their community.
I believe if the taxpayers are going to pick up the tab, they ought to be able to look at every item on the receipt!
President Reagan once said: “We in government should learn to look at our country with the eyes of the entrepreneur, seeing possibilities where others see only problems.”
The possibilities for prosperity are endless if employers are not over-regulated and over-taxed.
This is especially true for the small business that operates on a small margin.
Small business is vitally important to me, not just because I helped my dad run one, but because they represent the best of Main Street America.
They are the incubator where ideas are tested, refined and perfected so that families can experience opportunity.
Texas must always be a state where a dream can be put to work, where the regulatory environment is not burdensome, or the tax climate prohibitive, and where there is access to capital, talent and workforce training.
That’s why we are here: so you can get the help you need to get started, grow and succeed.
I hope that you make the most of the opportunities presented at today’s summit, and I ask that you give us your feedback and ideas about how the state can do more to help small businesses succeed.
I thank each of you for coming out today, and for all you do for Texas.
You are giving our people something far greater than jobs and paychecks, and that is the opportunity to provide a better life for the next generation. Thank you, and may God bless you.
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