San Diego Business Journal

Celebrating Accomplishments of America's Quiet Heroes

OPINION by Hector V. Barreto

There were dozens of stories on Sept. 12 that said, "Everything has changed." Let me tell you what has not changed.

We will gather in Washington, D.C., beginning May 6, to celebrate Small Business Week precisely because the resolve and determination of the millions of American small business owners has not changed.

The attack on our country was also an attack on our way of life, our belief in freedom and our conviction that free enterprise is the gateway to happiness and prosperity for anyone who works hard and provides a quality product or service.

Since 1963, the Small Business Administration has hosted National Small Business Week, a week in May when an amazing cross-section of talented and creative businessmen and women from all over America come together to celebrate their accomplishments.

Every state names a Small Business Person of the Year, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. We also will recognize small businesses that suffered from the terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia, firefighters and police officers for their bravery, and the Advocacy Award winners for their efforts on behalf of small businesses. Later in the week, we will honor federal contractors at the 35th annual Procurement Conference.

Honoring Resiliency

This year, the recipients of those awards will be honored with a special acknowledgment of their resiliency and what it meant to all of us last fall when they pressed on, with flags in the windows, with resolve in their hearts, to continue living the dramatic story of the most prosperous country the world has ever seen.

There won't be a story on the evening news tonight about George and Peggy Brown and their Lucky Wishbone Restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, or Dean Kloewer and his Panama Transport freight company in Iowa. They are the quiet soldiers of the American 21st century , they win their battles, by simply hanging an "open" sign in the door.

I was "minding my own , small , business," when President George W. Bush, another former businessman, asked me to lead the Small Business Administration. Like all of you, I could not have imagined when I took the oath of office in July what lay ahead in September.

Since those events, we have all witnessed a characteristically American brand of patriotism , stubborn and hardy enough to withstand the attacks on Sept. 11, persistent and determined enough to preserve our society and our economy, even if our attackers did not expect that of us.

Illustration Of Resolve

The response of millions of Americans and millions of businessmen and women , the normalcy of their daily activities, the generosity of their charity and the kindness of their unquestioning sympathy , has vividly illustrated to our opponents our resolve as a nation to withstand and overcome the challenges thrown against us.

I am honored to have been a part of this response, and I will take great pride in welcoming our honorees to Washington, D.C., to salute their accomplishments and congratulate them for chasing their dreams with innovation, dedication and hard work.

America is the land where free men and women can realize their dreams, the country where hard work and honest effort can provide peace and prosperity for all. And small business is where America works. That hasn't changed. It never will. Please join President Bush, the SBA and millions of small business owners and employees as we recognize their many contributions to our lives and our country's vitality.

Barreto is administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.