Federal agencies provide approximately $400 billion in contracts each year that are small business eligible. There are over 275,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania that employ over 3.2 million people, and I want to ensure that they have the tools they need to grow. That is precisely why I hosted a Small Business Procurement Workshop at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. I want to make sure that federal procurement becomes easier for Pennsylvania businesses.
By partnering with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, we were able to bring together about 75 businesses from across the region to learn how to do business with the government. The summit provided the informational toolkit these professionals will need to navigate the procurement process and strengthen their businesses. The Government Services Administrator David Ehrenwerth, along with leading experts in federal procurement, met with Lehigh Valley businesses to assist them with the process.
In these tough economic times, businesses need to find new customers and markets, and I believe this summit will help them do just that. For more information and a complete list of federal resources, please visit the procurement section of my website.
Forty-seven years ago this month, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This historic legislation outlawed discrimination against African-Americans and women, and reaffirmed the principle of equal access to education, public facilities, and opportunity. The progress we have made since then sustains my lasting optimism about the unique promise of the United States.
Despite the great accomplishments in the decades since the Civil Rights Act, a significant gap in academic achievement exists between students from low-income communities and their more affluent peers. Average scores for African-American and Hispanic eighth-graders are consistently lower than those of their White counterparts. In Pennsylvania, only 17% of Black and 13% of Hispanic students scored at a “proficient” or “advanced” level on a key national test, while 46% of White students met those benchmarks. Nationally, this persistent gap has shrunk little since 1980. Although Pennsylvania has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country, only 53% of Black students and 50% of Hispanic students graduate, compared with 83% of White students, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Aside from our moral obligation to provide an excellent education to every child, a well-educated workforce is the foundation for a strong and competitive American economy. In Pennsylvania alone, the 34,300 students who did not graduate from high school in 2010 represent lost lifetime earnings in the Commonwealth of over $8.9 billion. I maintain a deep commitment to addressing this national issue and I will keep the stark reality of the achievement gap in mind as Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. I will also recall the inspiring values of equal access to opportunity that our government renewed forty-seven years ago.
I’d like to commend and congratulate Charles “Chip” Kopicz Jr. for receiving NASA’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Medal. A Berks County native, Chip received the award for his 14 years of dedication to improving America’s space technology. An engineer with ERC Inc. at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Chip has improved modules for the International Space Station, and he is currently working to refine the J2X, the next-generation engine for space travel that will replace the space shuttle program.
Last week, children across the country looked at the final mission of the space shuttle program with a wonder and awe that will carry them into careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and other fields. I want to thank Chip for his many contributions to our country’s space program and congratulate him for the example he has set for youth across the country. I believe that we should encourage children to pursue their passions and provide them with the tools they need to reach their potential.
After graduating from the Wharton School, Gabriel Mandujano used his dual degree in business and urban studies to help Mexico with its efforts to create a sustainable transit system. While there, he discovered that laundry, with its heavy use of water, electricity, and chemical cleaners, has a significant environmental impact. He also thought it could be big business.
Using an SBA micro-loan he founded Wash Cycle Laundry, an innovative new business that provides sustainable laundry service to homes and businesses around Philadelphia. The name of the company has a dual meaning- he offers laundering service with delivery by bike. Gabriel’s fleet of bicycles, which can each pull up to 200 lbs. of laundry, pick up laundry and drive it to a laundromat that uses highly efficient machines that save energy and water and uses eco-friendly detergents that lessen the environmental impact of everyday laundry use.
Gabriel currently has 75 clients including private companies that contract their laundering to Wash Cycle Laundry and he is looking to expand in cities across the nation. Using several federal jobs programs, he has been able to hire new workers and is looking to expand over the next two years.
I commend Gabriel on his entrepreneurial spirit and contributions to the city of Philadelphia. I hope that others can be inspired by his non-traditional business approach and work to develop businesses that enhance our communities.
Joe Santelli, owner of Santelli Tempered Glass in Monessen, PA, was recently named Pennsylvania’s Small Business Owner of the Year and was honored in ceremonies both in his home state and in Washington, DC.
Joe began his company’s operations in 2006 in a former steel mill, creating 23 jobs in Pennsylvania, which he doubled within a year. In 2010, after achieving $5 million in sales, he expanded his company utilizing a loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Joe took advantage of key federal resources that promote business development, such as SBA loans and Small Business Development Centers. Utilizing these tools helps entrepreneurs meet the challenges of starting, sustaining and growing their small business.
Joe is one of 275,000 small business owners in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which combined employ over 3.2 million people. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and I will continue to advocate for increased access to capital and key federal programs that help businesses create jobs and grow revenue. I applaud the courage and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by Joe Santelli and millions of Americans in establishing such enterprises.