Tuesday, August 16, 2011

President Obama Announces New Jobs Initiatives for Rural America; Investments Boost Small-Biz Access to Capital, Job Training and Health-Care Services

Today, at the White House Rural Economic Forum, President Obama [pictured above, during yesterday's town hall meeting in front of the Seed Savers Exchange, in Decorah, Iowa] will announce new jobs initiatives recommended by the White House Rural Council for growing the economy and creating jobs in rural America.

The Council’s recommendations focus on key areas of need in rural communities -- including helping rural small businesses access capital; expanding rural job-search and training services; and increasing rural access to health-care workers and technology.

“These are tough times for a lot of Americans -- including those who live in our rural communities,” said President Obama. “That’s why my Administration has put a special focus on helping rural families find jobs, grow their businesses, and regain a sense of economic security.”

“Creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural America is a priority for the Obama Administration, and the White House Rural Council has used an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to leverage resources across the federal government to achieve that goal,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By bringing new capital, job training and additional investments to our rural communities, we are working to ensure the people who live in these towns have a better, brighter future.”

“SBA is pleased to announce that we will be doubling the capital going to rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company program, with no cost to taxpayers,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said yesterday. “Small businesses of all kinds are thriving in rural areas, where they are creating jobs of the future and helping ensure the economic stability of the middle class.

“Half the people who work in America either own or work for a small business, and two out of three new private-sector jobs are created by small businesses. The Obama Administration and SBA have been committed to supporting rural businesses, which drive economic growth across the country and will continue to do so through the programs announced today.”

The Council’s recommendations, which leverage existing programs and funding, include committing $350 million in SBA funding to rural small businesses over the next five years; launching a series of conferences to connect private equity and venture-capital investors with rural start-ups; creating capital marketing teams to pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors interested in making rural investments; making job-search information available at 2,800 local USDA offices nationwide; making HHS loans available to help more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals recruit additional staff; and helping rural hospitals purchase software and hardware to implement health IT.

NEW INITIATIVES

Helping Rural Small Businesses Access Capital

* Doubling SBA Investment Funds for Rural Small Businesses Over the Next Five Years: As part of the Startup America Initiative, SBA recently announced the creation of a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund through its Small Business Investment Company [SBIC] Program. The Impact Fund will invest in distressed areas as well as in emerging sectors such as clean energy. SBA provides up to a 2:1 match to private capital raised by this fund, partnering with private investors to target “impact” investments. SBA and USDA will partner together to drive $350 million of investment capital through the Impact Fund and existing SBICs into rural small businesses over the next five years -- effectively doubling the current rate of investment.

* Connecting Rural Small Businesses with Private Investment Capital: To further achieve this goal, SBA and USDA will launch a series of Rural Private Equity and Venture Capital conferences nationwide to provide a platform for connecting private equity and venture capital investors with rural start-ups. USDA, SBA, Treasury, Interior and other relevant agencies will also create rural capital “marketing teams” that pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors. These “marketing teams” will leverage existing personnel with expertise about rural funding sources across all federal departments and agencies.

Expanding Rural Job Search and Training Services
* Expanding DOL Job Search and Training Services to 2,800 USDA Sites Nationwide: USDA and DOL will partner to increase access to existing job-search and training information for rural job-seekers by providing DOL employment information at 2,800 USDA field offices nationwide. This will significantly reduce the distance that rural Americans need to travel in order to access DOL job-search employment information.

Increasing Rural Access to Health Care Workers and Technology
* Increasing Physician Recruitment at Critical Access Hospitals: HHS will issue guidance to expand eligibility for the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program so that Critical Access Hospitals [those with 25 beds or fewer] can use these loans to recruit new physicians. This program will help more than 1,300 CAHs across the country recruit needed staff. The addition of one primary care physician in a rural community generates approximately $1.5 million in annual revenue and creates 23 jobs annually. The average CAH creates 107 jobs and generates $4.8 million in payroll annually.

* Expanding Health Information Technology [IT] in Rural America: USDA and HHS will sign an agreement linking rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware needed to implement health information technology [HIT]. Under current conditions, rural health care providers face challenges in harnessing the benefits of HIT due to limited access to capital and workforce challenges. Rural hospitals tend to have lower financial operating margins and limited capital to make the investments needed to purchase hardware, software and other equipment.

BACKSTORY: THE WHITE HOUSE RURAL COUNCIL

On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council to accelerate the ongoing work of promoting economic growth in rural America. The Council is focused on increasing rural access to capital; spurring agricultural innovation; expanding digital and physical infrastructure in rural areas; and creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.

On Aug. 12, the White House Rural Council released a new report, entitled Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America, which lays out the economic landscape rural Americans face today and highlights the Administration’s key accomplishments in rural communities. The Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America report focuses on five critical areas: creating jobs and promoting economic growth; improving access to quality health care and education; fostering innovation; expanding outdoor opportunities; and supporting veterans and military families. Link to full report here.

Today, President Obama and members of the White House Rural Council will host the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, as part of the President’s three-day Economic Bus Tour in the Midwest. The forum will bring together farmers, small-business owners, private-sector leaders, rural organizations and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities nationwide. The President will engage directly with a variety of rural leaders from across the nation to discuss the importance of growing small businesses and strengthening the middle class in rural America.

GoodBiz113's Take
These rural jobs initiatives are exactly what America's small businesses and communities need in order to boost our economy for the short- and long term. The Obama Administration and his Cabinet members are to be applauded for their innovative and cooperative approach to easing our country's economic woes.

Congress, take note: Collaboration is a productive and positive thing. Our nation would greatly benefit if you took the high road and followed the Obama Administration's synergistic example to prosper the greater good, rather than myopically focus on preserving and growing the fortunes of America's wealthy elite.

SOURCE: The White House [official photo by Pete Souza]
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SBA Licenses Its First Public-Private Impact Investment Initiative Fund in Michigan

Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that InvestMichigan! Mezzanine Fund will be the first licensed Impact Investment Fund in the SBA’s new Impact Investment Initiative. The fund will focus exclusively on providing capital to businesses that are headquartered in Michigan, have a significant presence in Michigan, or are in the process of expanding their operations in Michigan so they can grow and create jobs.

SBA will partner with Michigan Growth Capital Partners, L.P., an investment partnership whose anchor investor is the State of Michigan Retirement Systems, and The Dow Chemical Company to provide up to $130 million of investment capital over the next five years to high-growth businesses throughout Michigan.

Credit Suisse’s Customized Fund Investment Group structured the InvestMichigan! Mezzanine Fund and will manage the fund in partnership with Beringea, a Michigan-based investment manager. Of the total funding, Dow will provide $15 million; Michigan Growth Capital Partners will provide $35 million; and SBA will provide $80 million, which must be repaid.

“InvestMichigan! is an important new ally in SBA’s commitment to foster small-business growth and job creation in underserved communities,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “They’re an experienced team that is well-positioned to drive more investment in small businesses in hard-hit Michigan.

“We will continue to grow this and other public-private partnerships by licensing more funds -- giving taxpayers a strong bang for their buck, and putting more capital in the hands of small-business owners to scale up and create good jobs.”

The Impact Investment Initiative is part of Startup America, a White House initiative to bring together public and private organizations to accelerate the growth of America’s entrepreneurs. It will use the infrastructure of the SBA’s Small Business Investment Company Program [SBIC], an established and successful program that operates at no cost to taxpayers.

The SBIC program began in 1958 with the mission to improve and stimulate the national economy and small businesses by supplementing the flow of private-equity capital and long-term loan funds for the sound financing, growth and expansion of small businesses. In FY 2010, the SBIC program provided $1.59 billion of financing to nearly 900 U.S. small businesses.

The Impact Investment Initiative will drive up to $1.5 billion into the hands of small businesses over the next five years. It will combine public and private funding for high-growth companies that will generate not only a financial, but also a “social” return, by focusing on businesses located in underserved communities or communities facing barriers to capital.

Through the Impact Investment Initiative, SBA will commit $1 billion to investment funds focused on investing in underserved markets, or in sectors that have been defined as national priorities.

Impact investments can be:
* Place-based -- Targeting small businesses located in, or employing residents of, low- or moderate-income areas or economically distressed areas; or
* Sector-based -- Targeting industry sectors that the Obama Administration has identified as national priorities. Currently only clean-energy and education have been identified as priority sectors.

To serve these markets, SBA will collaborate with private, institutional investors to identify impact investments and provide expedited licensing and capital to fund managers who qualify to organize and operate an Impact Investment SBIC.

High-growth firms are a small part of the small-business community, but they create a large number of net new jobs each year. The Impact Investment Initiative will help high-growth companies receive the funding they need to continue to expand and create jobs in America’s underserved communities and priority sectors.

For more information on SBA's Impact Investment Initiative, visit http://1.usa.gov/ImpactSBA.

GoodBiz113's Take
InvestMichigan! marks a significant development in the potential power of public-private synergies to boost out nation's economy -- state by state, community by community.

Kudos to SBA and its partners for making it happen. We'll be watching...

SOURCES: U.S. Small Business Administration, The White House
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Small Businesses Win a Record $97.95 Billion in Federal Prime Contracts

After reviewing the Small Business Administration’s fifth annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard, United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary L. Landrieu [D-La., pictured] and Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe [R-Maine] today commented on the federal government’s effort to increase federal contracting opportunities among small businesses.

According to the most recent scorecard, in fiscal year 2010, small businesses won nearly $100 billion in federal prime contracts -- an increase of more than $1 billion from 2009. Small businesses were awarded 22.66 percent of all federal spending in FY2010 -- less than half a percentage point shy of the statutory 23 percent goal.

"Over the course of one year, we saw nearly $100 billion go into the hands of America’s small businesses, and I am pleased to see the ever-increasing role of small businesses in the federal government contracting process," said Sen. Landrieu. "With the passage of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 last fall, we put in place ways to significantly improve these numbers, and I hope this report will be the last steppingstone to reaching our small-business contracting goals.

"The report confirmed an overall increase in small-business contracting for the second consecutive year, but the federal government still fell short of meeting their goal in many categories -- including prime contracting awards for women-owned small businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned small business, and Historically Underutilized Business Zones [HUBZones]. We continue to see room for improvement, and I am confident they are on the right track to reaching and surpassing these goals."

"Small businesses are the primary job creators in this country, responsible for more than two-thirds of all new jobs created," noted Sen. Snowe. "At a time when a staggering and seemingly intractable unemployment rate of over nine percent has become the norm -- with 22 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, and when we are experiencing the longest period of long-term unemployment in American history since data collection started in 1948 -- I remain dismayed that, yet again, the federal government has failed to meet its statutory government-wide goal -- not just for small business, but for women, HUBZones, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

"Reports show that small businesses lost an estimated $2 trillion in profits and asset valuation since the recession started in December 2007, while larger companies have been less affected and are recovering more quickly. Given these statistics, it is all the more paramount that small businesses have the opportunity to contract with federal agencies, and anything other than meeting these goals is simply unacceptable.

"For small firms that are struggling to stay afloat and maintain their workforce, federal contracting can be an instrumental part of a larger strategy for broadening their customer base and creating jobs and, although the numbers have improved, this Administration can, and must, do better."

About SBA's Small Business Procurement Scorecard
The FY2010 Scorecard calculated the amount of federal spending for prime contracting and subcontracting to small businesses for fiscal year 2010 [Oct. 1, 2009-Sept. 30, 2010], and evaluated agencies to ensure these firms remain an integral part of the federal contracting process.

SBA graded 24 agencies on each of the individual prime contracting goals established by Congress, and used an "A+" through "F" letter-grade system.

The federal government scored an overall average of 99.2 percent -- with 99.73 percent prime contracting achievement, and 94.50 percent subcontracting achievement.

Ten agencies’ grades increased from FY 2009, 10 agencies’ grades stayed the same, and four agencies’ grades decreased. The agency breakdown is as follows:
* 13 agencies received an "A"
* Five agencies received a "B"
* Four agencies received a "C"
* Two agencies received a "D"

Overall, SBA Administrator Karen Mills was optimistic about the Scorecard results. "When the federal government gets contracts into the hands of small businesses, it is a 'win-win' situation," she noted. "Small businesses have the opportunity to grow and create jobs, and the federal government gets access to some of the most innovative and nimble entrepreneurs.

"We are proud of the achievement the government has made [in small-business procurement], but are determined that the government will meet and exceed the goal. SBA is focused on a number of key initiatives to help increase small-business contracting opportunities, as well as combat fraud, waste or abuse. These efforts will ensure the benefits of our programs continue to go to the intended recipients."

The SBA's full Small Business Procurement Scorecard can be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/ScorecardsSBA.

SOURCES: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, U.S. Small Business Administration
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