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Address to Women Business Leaders (1984)

Address to Women Business Leaders
Becky Norton Dunlop

Good Morning!

It's a pleasure to be here in Indianapolis with you today. I want you to know that as a Buckeye I have only the most positive feelings about Indiana Hoosiers, even though my most vivid recollection of Indiana is having one of your prominent citizens, upon learning that I was a Buckeye, proceed to define with great glee exactly what the Hoosier definition of a Buckeye was--a round hairless nut with no intrinsic value. Fortunately, we Buckeyes have learned to overlook that definition and instead promote the notion that a Buckeye brings good luck. So I come before you this morning bringing good news as my good luck. A growing-expanding economy, greater opportunities for success in a free enterprise system that is stronger than ever, and a dramatically improved position in the world under the leadership of President Reagan are the basic underpinnings of the good news about which I can speak.

First, let me touch on some points which are personally relevant and important to those of us attending this conference.

During my brief time here and at other of these conferences, I have met many successful women business owners and many people committed to greater individual choices for everyone in our society and specifically to greater and fuller participation by women in the business community. We in the Reagan Administration share that vision. We are working enthusiastically and making significant progress in advancing the interests of women business owners.

As you know, women-owned businesses are increasing at a rate 5 times faster than male-owned businesses. That's the good news. However, the bad news is that women-owned businesses are much less profitable than their male counterparts. Here in Indiana for instance, most recent IRS data shows that female-operated sole proprietorships are bringing in only 6 percent of the receipts even though they are 23 percent of the sole proprietorships. These figures are comparable to national figures in which female-operated sole proprietorships are 22 percent of all sole proprietorships but bring in only 9 percent of the receipts. We all must work diligently in our various areas to increase the part of the economic pie going to women-owned businesses.

The Reagan Administration certainly is committed to this.

As Carolyn Gray mentioned yesterday, SBA developed and President Reagan supported a three part national initiative to assist women business owners and to improve these statistics.

The first element is a series of 21 conferences of which this is one. These have been tremendously successful and have been a source of encouragement, information, and most importantly business for thousands of women business owners. I trust this conference follows suit.

The second element is the Presidential Advisory Committee on Women's Business Ownership. This group of 15 distinguished Americans has crisscrossed the country listening to women share their successes and their frustrations, learning of creative solutions to old and new problems, and identifying problems for which no solutions have yet been found.

The final element, of course, is the Interagency Committee on Women's Business Enterprise, which President Reagan asked me to chair one year ago. I am glad to have this opportunity to tell you a little about the President's Interagency Committee.

The Interagency Committee is composed of high level appointees from various federal departments and agencies. The major goal of our committee is to increase opportunities for women in the federal marketplace. Currently less than one billion dollars of all federal prime contract monies are awarded to women entrepreneurs. It has become exceedingly clear through our evaluation of the programs that, though there are a number of problems, the most prevalent and overriding problem is communications.

Too many women business owners don't know how to go about doing business with the federal government and the federal procurements officers don't know about enough women owned businesses.

Our belief is that if we tackle this big problem of communications, we will see a significant increase in the success rate of women-owned business receiving contracts with the federal government. And then we can tackle the smaller problems with greater tenacity.

Our game plan includes the following initiatives:

  1. Women Business Owners: Selling to the Federal Government. (To be published October 10th.)
  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the federal procurement process. It lists resources which should provide a point of entry into the federal system as well as sources of assistance and information. With training and knowledge women will succeed.
  1. Procurement Seminars
  • We plan to sponsor over 30 two hour conferences across the nation in the next couple of months.
  • The audience to whom we are speaking is women business owners wishing to participate or participate more fully in the federal marketplace.
  1. Presidential Briefing of Procurement Officers
  • In the near future, President Reagan will address a meeting of federal procurement officers to underline his determination and commitment to increasing the federal procurement opportunities of women-owned firms.
  1. Improving PASS
  • We have begun the process of improving the Procurement Automated Source System better known as PASS. This is a computerized list of small businesses wishing to do business with the government. Currently there are 20,192 women-owned businesses on this system. It offers one of the best opportunities for including women in the bidding process. We hope that by improving the system and encouraging its greater use we will make a significant impact.

Doing business is tough. "It's tougher if you're a woman," said one woman business owner, but together we will achieve success.

The health of our nation's economy increasingly depends upon the vitality of all segments of the small business community. We trust that these programs will increase the opportunities for women-owned businesses to expand, prosper, and become full partners in that community.

Now let me turn my comments if I may to the bigger picture because, after all, opportunities hinge greatly on the health of our nation as a whole.

President Reagan came to office nearly four years ago with two primary goals. The first was to solve the economic crisis and the second was to restore our downtrodden image in the world and to redress the military balance that existed between the superpowers while maintaining the peace. Most Americans believe and I think that you will agree that he has been successful on both counts.

Sustainable, real economic growth has been restored and the economy is booming. Interest rates are down. The vital signs are strong. When President Reagan came to office in 1981 the prime rate was 21.5 percent and there was no capital for investment. Today it is 13 percent. And I heard yesterday from several economic forecasters that it should be dropping further in the next 30 days. That's good news.

The inflation rate is down. When President Reagan came to office in 1981 the inflation rate was 12.4 percent. Over the last 12 months the rate has dropped to 4.1 percent. In August it dropped .1 percent. That's good news!

And there are some ups as well as downs that qualify as good news. Productivity is up! Productivity which fell 2.2 percent in the last two years of the Carter-Mondale Administration increased 4.8 percent in the second quarter of 1984. Housing starts are up! Housing starts which declined to 1.3 million in 1980 were up to 1.8 million in July of 1984. The GNP is up. In the strongest recovery since 1949 the GNP rose 10.1 percent in the first quarter of 1984 followed by a 7.6 percent gain in the second quarter--without igniting inflation. Employment is up. The recovery has created six million new jobs. Employment has risen five million since 1981. More Americans are working today than ever before in our history. Real personal income is up. That is the amount of disposable income a person or family has left to spend after taxes. And, I might add, that the tax indexing provision which President Reagan proposed and has now signed into law is critical for maintaining growth in real personal income. Taxflation or bracket creep is the insidious tax resulting from inflation adjustments pushing taxpayers into higher income brackets, increasing their tax bills, decreasing their buying power, and giving Washington big spenders windfall profits to spend. Maintaining indexing is a high priority for the President--and it should be for you, too.

Factory operations are up. Factories are operating at the highest capacity levels in more than four years. Median family income is up. It increased over a thousand dollars per family from 1982-1983. And all that is good news! America is better off now than it was four years ago!

On the second front, restoring our downtrodden image in the world and redressing the military balance, while maintaining the peace, the President again has been successful.

One reason I like to cite for this success is his appointment of the first woman to the post of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.--Jeane Kirkpatrick. Jeane has been outspoken in her defense of the U.S., its policies, and its actions. She has made it clear that America has taken off the "kick me" sign so prominent in the past. She has spoken out and identified the "Blame America First" crowd here in the United States. She has been tough, fair, independent, and successful. She has challenged our foes--nose to nose--and strengthened our alliances.

Ronald Reagan's foreign policy has been steady and strong--the kind of foreign policy that has paved the way for a renaissance of freedom in the United States and in the World.

The President has moved steadily to implement his policy of peace through strength by rebuilding the nation's sagging defenses. From 1970-1983 defense spending rose $128 billion. Domestic spending rose $433 billion. We are hardly building up but rather catching up after years of neglect that brought us to shame in the Iranian desert. One of the distinguished members of the United States Senate describes quite aptly our defense policy when he says "I'm a dove--but I want to be the best armed dove on the block."

The citizens of the state of Indiana are in my judgment extraordinarily well served by two United States Senators, Richard Lugar and Dan Quayle, who share President Reagan's belief that America's greatest days are ahead of her and are working to insure that you have a strong economy, and a nation that is free and at peace so that you and your family can prosper. And, I can tell from having met many of you, that you will.

Thank you and God bless you.

(Prepared text may not reflect exactly delivered remarks.)