Monday, May 04, 2009

Verbatim: Leading Women Small-Business Champions Promote Rural Economic Development, Green Technology, Worker Safety, Streamlined SBA Lending

Periodically, GoodBiz113 presents diverse views on small business and entrepreneurship -- directly from those who help shape small-business policies and practices. Since this is Mother's Day Week, we're focusing on what some key women influencers said last week. Oh, and on May 10, make time to remember those special women in your life!

"This funding will immediately stimulate our local economy by creating jobs and will lay foundations for long-term economic strength by upgrading and modernizing important infrastructure. We've taken important steps toward economic recovery already, and we'll continue working over the coming months and years to ensure our economy thrives. But I'm glad this funding is reaching our communities quickly and is supporting important projects that will boost the economy." -- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D-N.H., pictured], announcing that the city of Franklin, N.H. [population 8,735] will receive $3,555,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA] funds through the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

The funds will be used to interconnect Franklin's water infrastructure with adjacent public water systems, which will create jobs and improve vital infrastructure. Funding will be provided through the USDA's Water and Environmental Program, which provides loans and grants to ensure that the necessary investments are made in water and wastewater infrastructure to deliver safe drinking water and protect the environment in rural areas.

Shaheen, a former small-business owner, became the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire, serving three terms from 1997-2003. In 2008, she became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, and now serves on the U.S. Senate committees on Foreign Relations, Energy and Natural Resources, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. [April 28, Jeanne Shaheen: U.S. Senator for New Hampshire]

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"The Clean Air Act is a landmark environmental law that has served us well for nearly four decades, but it simply was not written with the complexities of climate change in mind. The reforms needed are sweeping, and Congress must craft a policy that takes small business needs into account... Green entrepreneurship holds enormous potential for the lagging U.S. economy. Capping carbon emissions will not only protect our environment, but create an enormous market for the renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies being developed by our nation's entrepreneurs." -- Rep. Nydia Velázquez [D-N.Y.], chair of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, during a hearing about how entrepreneurs and family farmers can play a role in addressing climate change, as well as the effect emission reductions could have on the small-business economy.

With their innovation and ingenuity, small businesses are leading developers of cutting-edge "green" technologies. Lawmakers noted that entrepreneurs make up 90% of the renewable-energy sector that is harnessing wind and solar power, as well as producing biofuels. The renewable-energy and efficiency sectors are leading a new wave of growth, and are expected to account for one out of every four jobs by 2030. Small businesses are also instrumental in efforts promoting energy efficiency in both existing and new buildings.

As stewards of the land, small family farmers are also keenly aware of the implications of climate change. In addition to promoting sound practices to conserve the land and stop runoff, representatives from the National Farmers Union told members of Congress about the lessons they have learned trading carbon offsets on the Chicago Climate Exchange. The revolutionary exchange boasts 3,500 members and trades $9 million worth of carbon credits, enough to mitigate 320,000 cars. [April 29, U.S. House Committee on Small Business]

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"The goal of the process is to develop recommendations designed to assure accuracy of the supporting analyses and to identify alternatives that may reduce the burden on small businesses... I am alarmed that workers exposed to food flavorings containing diacetyl may continue to be at risk of developing a potentially fatal lung disease. Exposure to this harmful chemical already has been linked to the deaths of at least three workers. These deaths are preventable, and it is imperative that the Labor Department move quickly to address these hazards." -- Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, announcing that the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] will convene a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act [SBREFA] panel May 5 on a draft proposed rule on occupational exposure to diacetyl and food flavorings containing diacetyl.

Solis' interest in this issue began when she was a member of Congress, and workers in her former California district developed irreversible lung disease after being exposed to this workplace hazard. At one time, she urged OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect these workers.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. [April 29, U.S. Department of Labor]

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"Women business owners play a huge economic, cultural and social role in every part of American life... Women business owners are at the forefront of change and progress in this country. Addressing their special needs and helping them break down obstacles are critical to the nation’seconomic recovery. Ana Harvey is the right person to help SBA accomplish that task.” -- SBA Administrator Karen Gordon Mills, announcing that Ana Recio Harvey will serve as associate administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership.

Harvey is an experienced entrepreneur and was recently the president of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. As associate administrator of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, Harvey will manage the agency’s efforts to promote the growth of women-owned businesses through programs that address business training and technical assistance, and provide access to credit and capital, federal contracts and international trade opportunities. [April 30, U.S. Small Business Administration]

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“Today’s move by the SBA to streamline size standards for 7[a] loans will make as many as 70,000 more businesses eligible for government-backed loans... With banks throughout the country tightening lending standards to Main Street businesses, these companies have found it harder and harder to stay open. Increasing 7[a] size standards means more Main Street businesses that have been shut out of traditional lending markets will have the opportunity to utilize provisions of the Recovery Act to grow and strengthen their business.” -- Sen. Mary Landrieu [D-La.], chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, commenting on SBA's new rule to temporarily streamline size standards for businesses eligible to receive 7[a] loans. Sen. Landrieu had previously fought to streamline 7[a] size standards in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and in two separate bills last Congress.

According to the SBA, this temporary 7[a] loan size standard will parallel the standard for the agency’s 504 Certified Development Company loan, and will allow businesses to qualify based on net worth and average income. The net worth for the company and its affiliates can’t be in excess of $8.5 million, and average net income after federal income taxes [excluding any carry-over losses] for the preceding two completed fiscal years can’t be more than $3 million. The 7[a] program is the SBA’s largest lending program. [May 1, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship]

SOURCES: Jeanne Shaheen: U.S. Senator for New Hampshire, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. House Committee on Small Business, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, U.S. Small Business Administration, Wikipedia

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