Langevin Forum Encourages Increased Opportunities for Rhode Island’s Women Entrepreneurs

Mar 24, 2011 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Small Business

Recognizing an opportunity to create jobs in Rhode Island, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) brought together small business organizations, state leaders and successful businesswomen for a Women in Small Business forum at the Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Campus. Panelists explained resources offered by their organizations and offered advice in a setting that provided a unique networking opportunity for attendees who owned or were hoping to start their own business. You can view a clip of Langevin’s remarks at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDKqFVSathQ.

See photos at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/langevinri02/sets/72157626341275636/

Langevin noted that the event came about, in part, from his Rhode Island Summit on the Economy, held at CCRI last year, at which many attendees raised the need to coordinate federal and state efforts to make it easier for small businesses to thrive in the Ocean State. In addition, the potential contribution of women entrepreneurs in the state has not been achieved. While small businesses make up 96 percent of Rhode Island employers and there was a 15 percent increase in women-owned small businesses from 2002-2007, they still only account for slightly more than a quarter of all small businesses in the state.

“With this informative forum, my primary goal was to highlight the many worthy programs that can help you start a business and provide guidance for further success if you already have one established,” said Langevin. “I am also hopeful that this will create networking opportunities for all the participants here today. Your success will set an example for the future leaders of our state, many of whom may be at one of our outstanding colleges or universities, by showing that there are business opportunities available for them right here in their backyards.”

The event consisted of three panels (listed below), beginning with a segment on federal resources, followed by state leaders discussing opportunities specific to Rhode Island, and concluding with personal success stories from leaders in the state's business community. Juana Horton, Chair of the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce in Providence and President of the top interpreting agency in Rhode Island, moderated the discussion. A former winner of the Small Business Administration (SBA) RI Minority Small Business Person of the Year award, Horton spoke of her experiences and the importance of holding events like this.

“We have a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial spirit and talent in this state and we all generally benefit from each other’s success because it attracts more economic activity to Rhode Island,” said Horton. “Networking is crucial in the success of any business. Currently now in Rhode Island there are so many resources to level the playing field for women and minority businesses and I encourage entrepreneurs and business owners to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Among the topics discussed was the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, which started last month to address inequities in the distribution of federal contracts. According to a RAND study, between 1997 and 2006, majority women-owned businesses experienced a growth rate nearly twice that of the national average. Yet the more than ten million women-owned firms that make up more than 40 percent of all private businesses in this country have consistently received only three percent of Federal contracts.

“The promise of new opportunities for women-owned small businesses in federal contracting is finally being recognized,” said Mark S. Hayward, director of the SBA Rhode Island District Office.  “For the first time contracting officers can set aside specific contracts for certified women-owned small businesses. This also will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of five percent of federal contracting dollars being awarded to women-owned small businesses.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Providing them with the resources they need to grow and succeed is a top priority for the RIEDC,” said Keith Stokes, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. “Whether it’s regulatory or permitting assistance, access to capital, finding the right location, developing a business plan or building strategic partnerships, the RIEDC is ready to work with any company or entrepreneur to help them meet their challenges and find success in these critical economic times.”

Langevin has committed to continuing his work in Congress to ease burdens on all small businesses. Earlier this month, he helped pass the Small Business Paperwork Elimination Act, a bill he advocated for in the prior Congress, to remove a requirement that small businesses file a 1099 form for payments made on goods or services of more than $600 to any vendor beginning in 2012. Furthermore, he has advocated full and correct implementation of the health care law he worked to pass last year, which has already resulted in approximately 18,000 Rhode Island small businesses receiving information on a tax credit to help them provide coverage to employees.

“I am committed to doing all that I can in Congress and here in Rhode Island to create an environment where women-owned small businesses can flourish,” said Langevin. “We must continue to build upon existing and new partnerships, encouraging cooperation among businesses, educational institutions and our government agencies. Rhode Island has the unique ability to take on small-scale, cutting-edge initiatives and act as a model for innovative ideas and partnerships. We have shown through our state’s history we have the ability to adapt to new challenges, and we will do that again.”

PANELS:

Federal Programs
Mark Hayward- US Small Business Administration
Carmen Diaz-Jusino- Center for Women & Enterprise
Richard Torborg- US Minority Business Development Agency
Jerry Smith- Director of Office of Small Business Utilization, US General Services Administration

State & Local Programs
Gina Raimondo- Rhode Island General Treasurer
Ralph Mollis- Rhode Island Secretary of State
Keith Stokes- Executive Director, Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation
Merrill Sherman- President, CEO, Bank RI
John Cronin- Rhode Island Small Business Development Center at Johnson & Wales University

Local Success Stories
Juana Horton- Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce of Rhode Island
Erica Saccoccio- A Family Tree School Age Enrichment Programs, LLC