Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones’ story is impressive.
The life-long resident of Cleveland and product of the Cleveland Public School System was one of only 15 minorities in her graduating class at Case Western Reserve University. She was one of the few women elected to the city’s prosecutor’s office and one of the youngest judges to take the bench in Ohio.
She then went on to be the first African-American woman elected to the Ohio House of Representatives.
In her position in the U.S. Congress representing Ohio’s 11th District, Tubbs Jones champions small and minority-owned businesses. SBN Magazine sat down with her to discuss what the government has done and should do to support business owners.
There’s been a lot of attention on large national corporations, but what is this administration doing to help smaller business and struggling communities that may not get as much press?
I sponsored an amendment that has to do with disaster loans for small businesses … to amend that legislation to allow credit unions to administer the disaster loans. Traditionally, member credit unions have not been able to do so, in part because it was believed they had a restricted membership, so it wouldn’t allow everyone to come to the table.
My reasoning, however, was that there are many communities where there are no financial or banking institutions as we know it. In some areas, a credit union is the only financial institution. To allow small business to access this money — that would be the only route.
Also, many traditional financial institutions have taken the position that the loans are too small, that the cost of administration is too great. Therefore, many areas just don’t have access to this much-needed help.
Are there other programs that the Committee on Small Business, of which you are a member, is working on?
Helping businesses access government contracts is one of the things we’ve been battling. The issues include contract bundling. The government makes contracts so enormous that only really large corporations can access them.
In the three years I’ve been in Congress, I have been working on behalf of small businesses to stop the bundling process so anyone can come to the table. It’s not legislation. It has more to do with SBA and government agency procedures than any legislation.
It’s the constant reminder to the agencies, the procurement officers, that bundling of contracts has a detrimental impact on the ability of small businesses to work with the government.
What is this administration doing to address minority- and women-owned business issues?
I am committed to economic empowerment. When I leave Congress, I want people to remember it is what I worked on. And the reason economic empowerment is so important to me is because I believe it’s the equalizer. I think it’s the way to make sure those women and minorities have an opportunity to have equal access.
And I’m working on wealth building in terms of home ownership, in terms of predatory lending.
You’re a role model. Talk about how you’ve been successful.
I was always a hard worker because I knew that how I fared would impact how other women and other minorities would be treated in the process. I sought out and found great support, too, through relationships with city judges, male and female, white and black, to help me through the process.
In my position now, I have a great staff that I rely heavily on. And because I travel frequently between Cleveland and D.C., being able to communicate is extremely important.
I make use of current technology, too. I’m trying to go paperless, which is really a difficult process, but I use this Blackberry (remote network management tool) a lot. It has my schedule on it, my phone numbers, and I can even e-mail from it.
How to reach: Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, (216) 522-4900