AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY - November 21, 2009
Good Evening! It is an honor to be here with you as we come together to celebrate Asian-American Entrepreneurship.
I must say, it feels good to be back in Chicago. My mother grew up in Chicago and I lived here for nearly ten years, so in a real sense Chicago is my second home. I may be a bit biased, but I think Chicago is the greatest city in the world….In the worst possible location-particularly in the winter!
I bring you greetings from President Barack Obama and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Secretary Locke was hoping to be here with you this evening, but he was traveling with the President on his first trip to Asia and is now preparing to lead our delegation to Copenhagen to negotiate global climate change.
Many of you may not be aware but in 2005 when Secretary Locke was then Governor of the State of Washington, the First Chinese-American Governor, he spoke at the OCA National Conference.
He believes very strongly in the mission and purpose of OCA, so rest assured that you have a good friend in the Obama Administration.
I would like to take a moment and thank Ed Lai – Vice President of External Affairs and Gala Chair for his outstanding effort in making this event so successful. I would also like to thank Nicole Lee-Kline, President of the OCA Chicago Chapter for her tireless leadership and commitment to guiding this chapter to greater heights. And of course, I’d also like to thank Ken Lee, National President of OCA.
In addition, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the unprecedented number of Asian-Americans working in the Obama Administration. These outstanding leaders include my boss, of course, Secretary Gary Locke, Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Veterans Affairs retired General Eric Shinseki, Nominees for Assistant Secretary of Health and Legal Advisor to the State Department – Harold and Howard Koh, Tammy Duckworth – a woman of Thai descent who is assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs, Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra – who are focusing on government efficiency through technology, and Kal Penn who I work directly with. You may know Kal from the television show “House” and the comedy “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” – I didn’t see that movie, but perhaps you did. My friend Kal is Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Liaison focusing on Asian-American and Pacific Island outreach – and there are many, many more.
The President has, and will continue to be, committed to the Asian American community not because it is the “right” thing to do but because the Asian American communities are a central part of the fabric of this nation.
The Chinese-American community is an excellent example: Chinese-Americans who today number more than 6 million citizens – larger than the entire population of Native Americans - have been in this country since the mid 1800’s. Our Chinese-American ancestors experienced first hand the debilitating impact of racial discrimination and were in fact the first immigrant group targeted for exclusion and denial of citizenship by the U.S. Congress in 1882.
Still, a pioneering spirit led thousands of Chinese to leave their homes in Guangdong Province and other parts of China to come here… seeking a better life for themselves and their families in America.
This spirit exists in the hearts and minds of Chinese-American and Asian-American entrepreneurs to this day.
It is the undeniable willingness to take risk, to work day after day and night after night, sometimes scratching out an existence, in the singular belief that greatness and prosperity is just within reach – this is what drives our nation’s Asian-American entrepreneurs and brings us here this evening to recognize, honor and celebrate their achievements. And our nation needs Asian-American entrepreneurs to be successful now more than ever before.
In many respects our nation is at a cross roads. Since taking office President Obama has worked to renew American leadership and pursue a new era of engagement with the world - based upon mutual interest and respect. He has worked hard to revitalize our alliance with Japan and engage China in a way that reflects a deep desire for pragmatic cooperation and a strengthened relationship.
He has worked to solidify our long-standing commitment to the security of the Republic of South Korea while offering North Korea a clear path to becoming a respected member of the world community – All for the purposes of creating greater security in the region and a greater opportunity for prosperity through open markets and fair trade. Asian-American entrepreneurs benefit from this effort.
Yet, there is an increasing chorus of protectionism.
While history has already rendered its verdict on the utility of turning inward and closing off markets, there are still powerful voices both in America and around the world who would rather repeat the mistakes of the past, than forgo the comfort of drinking from the cup of narrow mindedness.
It is you, the Asian-American entrepreneur of today and tomorrow, who’s success will push back the protectionist tendencies, and create thousands of new jobs across exciting new industries – green technology, alternative energy and healthcare IT.
It is you who will help reduce our trade deficit, while unleashing a level of innovation and efficiency never before seen. And it is you, who will be the next group of millionaires and billionaires.
But to meet the challenges faced in our economy today and to take advantage of the benefits of this community, Asian-American companies need to get bigger and they will have to get bigger faster.
The average annual gross receipts of the average Asian-American owned enterprise today is only $296,000. This is too small.
To get bigger faster, you must consider the global markets for your products and services as readily as you consider domestic markets.
Language ties and cultural understanding offers you a competitive advantage in global markets. If you are interested in globalizing your business, you should consider engaging our International Trade Administration. ITA provides a range of services to help prepare you to export and the Minority Business Development Agency is your conduit to ITA.
You must reconsider your growth strategies, moving away from organic growth models of the past and embrace the growth models of the future…growth through merger…growth through acquisition…growth through joint venture… and growth through strategic partnership.
During this period of extreme challenge in the capital markets and a near cut off of traditional bank financing, you must consider new vehicles to finance your business. This may entail you to increase your savings so that you have greater equity in your business and move away from a sole ownership psychology to embrace a strategic partnership psychology.
On the financing side, our Chicago business development center and MBDA’s Midwest Regional Director Mr. Eric Dobyne stand ready to assist you with strategies to finance your operations and find business opportunities. Keep in mind that this year, MBDA has executed on over $2.5 billion in contracts and financings for minority-owned firms nationwide.
Finally, you must resist the comfort of racial isolation and separatism and embrace the benefits and opportunities of multi-culturalism. The mere fact that China has comfortably invested billion of dollars in African speaks to the importance of this capability.
Now, take a moment and look around the room, look at your neighbor, look into their eyes – feel free to stare. What you probably see is a very attractive face as you are a very attractive group.
But what I see when I look around the room is the creator of a new and innovative technology. I see your new strategic partner or an investor capable of taking your business to the next level. I see the Asian-American entrepreneur who is going to hire hundreds of employees. I see someone who is going to take their business globally and I see the next billionaire….and MBDA is here to help you.
Before I was appointed by the President to run MBDA, I was an entrepreneur just like many of you. I understand your challenges and your struggles. I got involved in the presidential campaign, and during the campaign the President often spoke about the “fierce urgency of now,” that despite the fact that nothing will come without set back or struggle, now is our time – our time to change the world. We really are the people that we have been waiting for…and now is the time.
Now is the time for those who are considering entrepreneurship to step forward, and for those who are entrepreneurs to take your business to the next level. Now is the time for each and every one of you to make the decision to create history.
The Asian-American entrepreneurs that we honor tonight have done just that. They have made the decision to create history!
So let us join together in appreciation of the past success and prepare ourselves for the great successes that are to come.