Throughout our nation’s history, small businesses — with fewer than 500 employees as defined by the federal government — have been the engine of our economy. Today, America’s 28 million small businesses represent the creativity and innovation that drives our economic growth.

Like this Chamber’s efforts, many of today’s civic conversations are focused on job creation. History has shown us that start-ups and small businesses play a crucial role. Since 1995, more than 65 percent of the net new jobs were created by small businesses. Today more than 50 percent of the working population, or 120 million individuals, work in a small business.

Here in California, the importance of small business has never been greater. California small businesses comprise 98 percent of all businesses, provide more than half of the private sector jobs.

In addition to the jobs they provide, small businesses owners are often the backbone of their communities and neighborhoods. They donate time and money to important community activities and lead in addressing community and neighborhood concerns.

On June 19, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce will join the U.S. Small Business Administration and other community partners in recognizing and celebrating the small businesses in our region. The 2014 Small Business Awards & Conference will feature the 34th annual Small Business Awards and dynamic keynotes from inspiring leaders. An engaging slate of breakout sessions on topics like access to capital, innovative technologies, alternative funding, marketing on a limited budget and global trade opportunities will help attendees grow their enterprises.

Whether you’re employed by a small business or not, we are all impacted by their work and growth. I hope you’ll join me — and more than 600 small business owners and area professionals — as we salute our region’s small businesses and learn from their success on June 19.