Monday, May 11, 2009

Verbatim: Leaders Advocate Small-Business Outreach, Lending, Health Care, Micro-Credit, Optimism and Passion

Periodically, GoodBiz113 presents diverse views on small business and entrepreneurship -- directly from those who help shape small-business policies and practices. Here's what some key influencers said last week.

“We’ve received very positive feedback from entrepreneurs throughout the state who have attended recent Small Business Committee outreach conferences... These events have helped Louisianians learn how to get SBA-backed loans, secure federal contracts, and create new jobs for Louisiana’s workers. I look forward to another successful outreach conference in Baton Rouge to help our local small business owners manage a business that will add new jobs for the state and help get our economy back on track.” -- Sen. Mary Landrieu [D-La.], chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, announcing that that the committee will host a Small Business Outreach Conference on Friday, May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Baton Rouge River Center in Baton Rouge, La., for small-business owners looking to utilize federal and state small-business assistance programs.

Sen. Landrieu's committee will work with the U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA] and Louisiana Economic Development [LED] to provide brief overviews of SBA lending programs, federal contracting opportunities, LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development Program, plus other programs to help small businesses maintain and grow their businesses in this tough economic climate. The committee held several similar outreach conferences in Lafayette, Lake Charles and Shreveport, La., and plans to hold additional outreach conferences throughout the state in the coming months. [May 4, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship]

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"It's a bit of progress. Is it going to be sustainable? I don't know. The key is whether or not you can convince small businesses that now is the time to invest, given the historic low interest rates and fee reductions available through SBA financing." -- Kurt Chilcott, president of CDC Small Business Finance, a San Diego, Cal., lender of SBA-backed 504 loans. It approved $20.3 million in loans in April, up from $11.6 million in March. [May 5, The Wall Street Journal]

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"Lack of access to affordable health-care coverage is a huge crisis for the small-business community in Maine and across the country. If we exclude action to address dysfunctional small group insurance markets from health-reform legislation, then we are going to leave 52 percent of the uninsured behind... The simple truth is that reform is going to require we realize savings – both to reduce the high burden of health-care costs and to enable us to assist those who truly need help to access care. We must not ignore promising measures such as SHOP, which can make fundamental improvement in coverage without increasing deficits. This is simply a common sense reform." -- Sen. Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

In a May 5 roundtable discussion with the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Snowe argued that limiting health-care coverage to firms with 10 or fewer employees will result in the failure to cover the 26 million uninsured Americans who work for firms with fewer than 100 employees. She is now moving to reintroduce the Small Business Health Options Program [aka SHOP Act], which permits small businesses and the self-employed to work together, across state lines, to secure affordable coverage and find ways to reduce administrative costs. [May 6, The Exception Magazine]

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"To get out of this recession, we need to do all that we can to help established small businesses and prospective entrepreneurs succeed and create new jobs... Just as they have in the past, small firms promise the surest path to a recovery, and these initiatives give them the right tools and support they need to prosper." -- Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez [D-NY], chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, during a committee hearing to examine a bipartisan legislative package that would update key entrepreneurial development programs within the SBA.

On May 6, Velázquez' committee reviewed a print of the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009. If enacted, the legislation would mark the first overhaul of the SBA's entrepreneurial development programs in a decade. The measure expands specific programs, such as Small Business Development Centers [SBDCs], Women's Business Centers [WBCs] and the Service Corps of Retired Executives [SCORE]. The bill also creates new support programs for veteran-owned and Native American-owned small businesses; improves cross-program coordination to maximize use of program resources; and creates 21st century online learning initiatives for entrepreneurs. In addition, the bill creates a grant program for SBDCs, specifically designed to assist small firms in securing capital and credit. [May 7, U.S. House Committee on Small Business]

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"Micro-credit has been one area where there has been no impact of the current banking crisis. It is still as robust as ever... The micro-credit system will play an important role in the recovery process, because people are losing jobs and the banks are not giving loans. The micro-credit system will help in creating self-employment by giving small loans, which in turn will help the economy." -- Professor Mohammad Yunus, an economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize 30 years after launching the innovative Grameen Bank project in Bangladesh in 1976.

In January 2008, the bank opened its first branch, Grameen America, in the Jackson Heights area of Queens in New York. In its first year, it lent a total of $1.5 million to more than 700 people to start small businesses or grow existing enterprises. [May 7, BBC News]

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"The president made a commitment that we will stand behind the auto companies and workers... Clearly, the problems that we face, and the challenges that we face today, didn't occur overnight and they're not going to be solved overnight. We need to get the economy growing. We need to get people buying automobiles again." -- Ed Montgomery, President Barack Obama's Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, during a two-day swing through Michigan to listen to pleas for help from local officials and workers in cities stretching from Grand Rapids to Detroit. [May 8, Chicago Tribune]

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"...I have little doubt that there will be various interests -- vocal and powerful -- who will oppose different aspects of this budget. Change is never easy. However, I believe that after an era of profound irresponsibility, Americans are ready to embrace the shared responsibilities we have to each other and to generations to come. They want to put old arguments and the divisions of the past behind us, put problem-solving ahead of point-scoring, and reconstruct an economy that is built on a solid new foundation. If we do that, America once again will teem with new industry and commerce, hum with the energy of new discoveries and inventions, and be a place where anyone with a good idea and the will to work can live their dreams..." -- President Barack Obama [pictured above, with Office of Management and Budget [OMB] Director Peter Orszag, left, and Deputy Director Robert Nabors], upon presenting his Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2010 to the 111th Congress. [May 8, Office of Management and Budget]

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"Step by step, we are beginning to make progress. Of course, that is no solace for those who have lost their jobs, or to the small-business owners whose hearts break at letting longtime employees go." -- President Barack Obama, shortly after the government announced that the unemployment rate rose to a 25-year high of 8.9 percent in April. Labor Department figures show that 539,000 Americans lost their jobs last month, compared to more than 600,000 in March. [May 8, Voice of America]

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"You will succeed, and your success will define you and the future of America... Passion is the driver of America's successful small businesses. It is the basis for our country's entrepreneurial spirit. And I strongly believe that this class has both an opportunity -- and a responsibility -- to discover and pursue your passion." -- SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills, addressing approximately 1,871 University of Maine Class of 2009 graduates at two ceremonies on Saturday, May 9.

Mills, whose career is characterized by notable successes in managing various kinds of businesses and in raising capital to support entrepreneurs, delivered an upbeat message for graduates entering the job market during difficult economic times. She pointed to passion as the defining characteristic of successful business owners, particularly in the context of small-business operations, and noted that small businesses are responsible for half of private-sector jobs and that they have created 70 percent of new jobs in the past decade. [May 9, The University of Maine]

SOURCES: BBC News, Chicago Tribune, Library of Congress, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. House Committee on Small Business, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, U.S. Small Business Administration, The University of Maine, Voice of America, The Wall Street Journal, The White House

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