This year’s celebration, the 37th, is entitled, “A History of Success, A Millennium of Opportunity,” and is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Small businesses have been the foundation of the longest sustained economic expansion in our nation’s history, generating more than 51 percent of the gross domestic product. America’s small businesses employ more than 52 percent of the private-sector work force and have been the principal source of the 21 million new jobs created since 1993.
There is no sign of a slowdown in the entrepreneurial spirit, either, as one million new small businesses start up each year.
During Small Business Week, one outstanding entrepreneur from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam will be recognized in ceremonies in Washington, D.C. From these, one will be named National Small Business Person of the Year. The SBA Administrator, based on recommendations from the National Advisory Council, makes this selection. The council considers length of time in business, growth in the number of employees, increases in sales and/or unit volume, improvement in financial condition, responses to adversity and contributions by the business owner to community-oriented projects.
During Small Business Week, Small Business Advocates and Special Award Winners also are honored.
A small business advocate has used his or her professional expertise or personal talents to further the understanding and awareness of small business. These individuals have taken an active role in creating opportunities for small business.
The special awards category recognizes a top young entrepreneur, a small business exporter and a former “small” business by SBA size standards that has grown into a large business with SBA assistance.
In 1998, two awards were added to the special awards category. The Phoenix Award is given to individuals whose efforts and contributions enabled their businesses or communities to recover successfully from a disaster. Welfare-to-Work Awards are presented to former welfare recipients who are now self-supporting entrepreneurs and to individuals who have contributed to the Welfare-to-Work initiative.
Each year of my directorship, I have enjoyed the pleasure of working with the finest and most capable group of awards ceremony planners in the country. They are the Western Pennsylvania Small Business Network (WPSBN) and a small group of SBA Pittsburgh District Office advisers. Their excellent work has discovered and honored highly successful small business owners and small business advocates in Western Pennsylvania.
The honorees have presented a serious challenge to nominees throughout the region, the state and the nation, resulting in more regional and state winners for Western Pennsylvania than for any other office in a five-state region.
In 1997, Georgia Berner of New Castle was selected “Small Business Person of the Year” for Western Pennsylvania, the region, the state, and finally, first runner-up for the country. In 1998, Tilden Bennett and Gary Kiliany were Small Business Persons of the Year for the state, and in 1999, Walter Greenleaf Jr. won the same state honor.
These small business people are flanked by a battery of other small business owners and advocates who, together, represent the best-qualified entrepreneurs and supporters of entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and beyond.
Again, congratulations to our nominees and winners, and thank you, Western Pennsylvania Small Business Network, SMC Business Councils, resource partners, and the SBA advisory committee, for a continued job very well done.