There’s not a lot of love lost between small business owners and our leaders in Washington. High taxes, deficits, regulations, and gridlock top the list of reasons. Gene Marks, writing for Inc., points out five things Washington is doing right — and you will likely agree.
1. They’re building awareness: It might not sound like much, but according to Representative Sam Graves, “The biggest thing the committee [the House Small Business Committee] needed to do was to bring relevance to the issues of small business.” Over the last few years the committee has brought before them Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, FCC Chairmen Wheeler and Genachowski, SBA heads Mills and Contreras-Sweet, IRS Commissioner Werfel among other Administration officials to discuss current policies and how they affect small businesses. And this year, Contreras-Sweet has been making appearances all around the country for the SBA to raise awareness of issues that impact small businesses. “These activities keep the concerns of small companies in the public eye,” writes Marks.
2. They’re educating: “The SBA holds seminars and webinars each month helping small businesses learn more about cash flow, financing and general management as well as overseeing its SCORE counselors who provide no-charge consulting services to any small business owner who asks,” writes Marks. That includes greater outreach to minority businesses. And there are a million subscribers to the House Committee’s newsletter, which shares advice and information that is relevant to small business owners.
3. They’re making capital available: Over the last year or so the SBA has removed fees on certain SBA guaranteed loans of $150,000 or less and made the SBA loan process a little easier. “We’re allowing more businesses to get through the cycle faster,” says Contreras-Sweet. “For example, if a loan application wasn’t submitted within nine months from its initial date, a banker had to start over again. We’ve changed that.” Contreras-Sweet, and her predecessor Karen Mills, are both talking about how the world of small business lending is changing. The current administrator is even talking about what the SBA can learn from online lenders, and how those lessons might help improve the SBA. 2015 will likely see more efforts to streamline the SBA approval process and remove paperwork from loan programs.
4. They’re fighting regulations: This past year, several outdated regulations were on the House Committee’s radar for removal. And, the committee passed the House Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011 and 2013, which requires federal agencies to consider the impact of their regulations on small businesses. They also passed the Jobs for America Act, designed to help improve the conditions necessary for economic growth and job creation—something small business owners do very well.
5. They’re making it easier to do business with the government: “This past year, the federal government reached its small business federal contracting goal for the first time in eight years, awarding 23.9 percent in federal contracts to small businesses totaling $83.1 billion of eligible contracting dollars,” writes Marks. “Contreras-Sweet wants to increase this to 25%.” This is great news for small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses that pursue government contracts.
If it feels like the only thing coming out of Washington these days is gridlock, these five positives might help everyone feel a little better. “My biggest frustration is getting more people to understand what we do,” says Contreras-Sweet. I agree with Marks when he suggests that awareness is good, but actions speak louder than words. Hopefully, there will be even more good news by this time next year.