How quickly will the administration move on the recommendations from the jobs summit?
The president has instilled in his team a sense of urgency. So I would expect to see, in the days and weeks ahead, the president will begin to unveil his ideas that have come from this process.
Small business is one of the engines of employment. Because of the dire state of small and minority businesses, will there be a task force developed on the White House level similar to the one created to strengthen the auto industry?
As a part of the President’s daily briefing with his economic team, there is always an emphasis on small businesses and we’re always looking for those that are most vulnerable. So I don’t know whether it would be premature to say whether we’re going to set up a special task force but you should know that it is on the agenda of the president’s economic meetings every single day. We have had, in the White House alone, several sessions with the President, with small businesses, with the Small Business Administrator, the Commerce Secretary and the Labor Secretary. [Treasury Secretary] Tim Geithner, [National Economic Council Director] Larry Summers and I have all gotten together with small businesses and really tried to understand the challenge.
Small and minority business still have a tough time getting access to capital.
There is a tension here which I will highlight for you. We’re encouraging [community banks] to lend to small businesses and the regulators are saying to them, quite appropriately, make sure that you have reserved enough assets on your books in case we have more shoes to drop in the next year. So they are caught in this tension between trying to satisfy the regulators and trying to provide access to capital.
And that’s at a time when they’ve been given the 90% guarantee on SBA loans?
Even with that, it’s still not enough. So the question is what, if anything more, is appropriate for government to do and what is appropriate for the private sector?
So is the administration trying to encourage major corporations to invest in their suppliers and help grow them to a size where they can be self-sufficient?
Exactly. Or even just get them through this period [with working capital since] there is this tough time finding access to capital. So those are the kind of creative ideas that we are hoping will come. It’s a really good example of where the private sector is doing something to help another part of the private sector because of the economic climate in which we find ourselves.
The National Urban League recently held a Green Jobs Summit. One of the proposals put on the table was the development of green empowerment zone similar to the urban empowerment zones of the ’80s and ’90s. Have you looked at developing a similar model for distressed communities and small businesses?
Well, we have looked at it and we’ve worked very closely with the Urban League. I think what we want to do is figure out how we can take those kinds of ideas and strategically figure out what is the best use of the resources that we have? And we want to balance that against other priorities. We have to believe green jobs are a terrific way to stimulate the economy because it’s moving us into the forward direction. I think the idea of having some sort of incentives that induce the creation of those jobs is very good. And we have a Green Jobs Task Force that has been working with a broad collaboration of people within the administration as well as many outside companies to really drill down and see what we can do to jumpstart green jobs.
Is the administration presently working with Congress on the jobs creation bill?
We’re going to share with them the results of the summit. We are working very collaboratively with Congress as we always do.