|Thank God for Internet news feeds and alerts. If we do a good job at setting up our filters, we can keep track of the news and events most meaningful to our lives – without having to weed through the massive amount of information now literally at our fingertips. Because it’s important to my business and to my role as president of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) here in O.C., I try to keep my “news feed finger” on the pulse of small business legislation.
So, yesterday one of those “better take a look” stories landed on my desktop. Amid a political smorgasbord of high-profile and volatile issues, Washington somehow made time to address two potentially game-changing Senate bills for startups and small businesses. Essentially, Sens. Landrieu and Snowe, leading the bipartisan Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, are working to revive and update two sweeping SBA initiatives: one having to do with availability of counseling and resources, and the other with economic incentives to stimulate innovation and technology transfer.
May sound boring, but it’s not. Consider this: As part of the Entrepreneurial Development Act of 2009, the SBA’s counseling programs will be reauthorized to provide small businesses with the tools they need to succeed, teaching them how to write and execute business plans, manage cash flow or put together successful loan packages. The committee points out that for every dollar invested in counseling, $2.86 is returned to the Treasury in the form of increased tax dollars. And SBA counseling programs are estimated to create or save more than 200,000 jobs a year. Now, this seems worthwhile. And tangible. This reauthorization will specifically jumpstart the Small Business Development Center program (SBDC), SCORE, the Women's Business Center program (WBC) and its grant process, the National Women's Business Council and other programs. It also establishes an online networking, information and education resource platform for small businesses. Wow! Music to my NAWBO (and client) “ears.”
Also shaking the cobwebs off of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs, this portion of the act more than triples the funding available for SBIR grants and increases that for SBTT. It also reopens the door to venture-backed startups – which often incubate the disruptive technologies and business models that ultimately stimulate industries and employ thousands – and have been effectively shut out from these programs since 2001. This is very meaningful to us here in Orange County, where many of our promising medical device and other life-science companies have been thwarted by limited access to capital.
Of course, the Senate will continue to vet these bills before bringing them to vote, and the House will do the same on its version, which I understand is quite similar. We’ll see what comes out of the legislative process. I’m hopeful that the final bills will indeed put ARRA (the Obama administration’s economic stimulus initiative) to work for promising small businesses. Whatever the outcome, I’ll know almost instantaneously with the click of a mouse.
And as a hands-full citizen, juggling career, family and volunteer work, I’m supremely grateful for the likes of the WSJ Small Business Journal, Google Alerts and even the federal government’s surprisingly accessible and increasingly user-friendly Internet portals. They all make me smarter and better informed. They all serve my business, my clients and my community.