Rangel back in action

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 4/12/2012, 2:18 p.m.

A large contingent of entrepreneurs, most of them aspiring or established small businesswomen and men, showed up Tuesday morning at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building for Rep. Charles Rangel's "A Day with SBA and MBDA."

An impressive gaggle of reporters was also on hand, but they were more interested in a press conference with the congressman, who hadn't been seen in public for two months.

Rangel, at his diplomatic best though slowed by a recent operation on his back, expressed his appreciation for the appearance of keynote speaker Karen Mills, an administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), at the event.

"You will be the linchpin of rebuilding the nation--an anchor for us," Rangel said, citing her role connecting the nation's small businesses to the Obama administration. President Barack Obama has often concluded that small businesses are the backbone of the country's economy.

During her brief presentation after an introduction by Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Mills said, "Our job at the SBA is to provide access for small businesses to government agencies, as well as to help you secure bank loans."

She said the $30 billion given in loans for small businesses during the Obama administration is the largest amount ever, and that it only cost taxpayers $1 billion. "The president gets it," she enthused.

David Hinson, director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), applauded the role the Obama administration has played in improving the financial status of small businesses, "but $30 billion is not enough."

"We are a conduit to other parts of the government," Hinson explained during the question-and-answer session. "Engage us and we will put you in touch with other governmental agencies, such as the International Trade Administration."

Rangel, as he had done for Mills, praised the work Hinson and his agency were doing to make things better for small business owners.

"We have a lot of work to do," he said, anticipating the press corps chomping at the bit.

If fireworks were expected at the press conference, they were cleverly muted by Rangel, who deftly handled questions about his health and how he felt about the various candidates seeking to unseat him from the newly configured 13th Congressional District, formerly the 15th.

"My record speaks for itself," he said in response to a question about his 40-year tenure in office. "I am very proud of what we've accomplished."

He refused to say anything disparaging about Adriano Espaillat, the state senator who has recently announced his bid for the office. Espaillat, a Dominican-American, may provide the most formidable challenge Rangel has experienced in recent years, since the district is now comprised of a majority of Latinos.

"I certainly have to be sympathetic to any person or group of people who believe that their particular culture, language or background should be in the Congress or in the City Council," he said, addressing the issue of other minorities. "I've always supported that because that's what America is all about."

Rangel also acknowledged the presence of his good friend, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, the nation's first Dominican-born elected official.