The Small Business Watchdog

As the voice of small business in government, Advocacy invites you to post your thoughts on this moderated blog, provided as a forum for the small business community.

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February 2015 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Newsletter Released

February 20th, 2015 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy has released the February 2015 issue of The Small Business Advocate newsletter. This edition features Advocacy’s newly released Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories, and includes the United States profile in full. In addition, the newsletter contains regulatory news and a summary of the Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act FY 2014. The newsletter can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

In This Issue:

Economic News
Small Business Profiles Offer Valuable Insight into States’ Economies, 1
U.S. Small Business Profile, 3

Regulatory News
Comments Submitted on Proposed DoD Rule, 2
Revisions to Ozone Air Quality Standards Proposed by EPA, 2
EPA Proposes Air Emission Standards for Brick Production, 7

Advocacy News
Miriam Segal Joins Advocacy’s Economic Team, 2

New Advocacy Publications
Advocacy Releases RFA Report and Annual OER Report, 8

The Small Business Advocate, February 2015

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Small Business Profiles Offer Valuable Insight into States’ Economies

February 2nd, 2015 · Comments Off

Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories

The Office of Advocacy released a new report, Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories, an annual snapshot of state-level small business activity which includes information on the number of firms, employment, demographics and other topics using the most recently available government data.

“The United States’ 28.4 million small businesses play a vital role in our economy,” said Christine Kymn, Advocacy’s chief economist and director of economic research. “Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all U.S. businesses with employees and employ about 56 million members of the nation’s private-sector workforce. The Office of Advocacy notes that this year’s state profiles signal improving conditions for small businesses and in turn, their respective state economies. We hope to see further improvements in 2015.”

Some highlights of the profile include:

  • Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of small business employment.
  • The top three small business industries with the most jobs include health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, and retail trade.
  • In 2013, 630,357 establishments opened, and 79.5 percent survived through 2014.

The report includes breakdowns of the top 10 states in a variety of categories. These top ten lists provide valuable insights into which individual states are showing upward trends in small business growth.

For example, Montana tops the lists of states with the highest share of small firm employment in 2012, with 67.6 percent, followed by Wyoming with 62.3 percent and South Dakota with 59.2 percent (Table 1).

Also of note are the states with the highest self-employment rate in 2013. Montana and Vermont top the list, each with 13.6 percent of citizens self-employed, followed by South Dakota with 13.1 percent (Table 2).

The states with the most small establishments surviving for a year (2013-2014) are Washington, with 87.4 percent, followed by Delaware with 84.7 percent and Wisconsin, with 83.1 (Table 3).

North Dakota has the highest rate of private sector employment growth from October 2013-2014. Second highest is Texas and third is Utah (Table 4).

In addition to the detailed state profiles, Advocacy has also made available on their website extensive additional data on business turnover, income and finance, and exporting. You can also find statistics broken down by industry type and the top industries by demographic group.

The state profiles can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

Table 1, Table 2

sp table 3-4

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

Federal Agency Compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act Saved Small Businesses at Least $4.8 Billion in FY 2014

January 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy has released the Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act FY 2014. The report is a requirement of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which directs the Chief Counsel for Advocacy to monitor federal agency compliance with the RFA and report on it at least annually. This year’s report finds that the Office of Advocacy’s efforts at ensuring RFA compliance helped save small entities at least $4.8 billion in first-year regulatory costs in FY 2014, while ensuring that agencies were able to meet their regulatory goals.

The report can be found here: Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act FY 2014

And the research summary can be found here: Small Business Research Summary No. 428

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics

January 2015 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Newsletter Released

January 20th, 2015 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy has released the January 2015 issue of The Small Business Advocate newsletter. This edition features a roundup of the new leadership of the Congressional small business committees. The message from Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant details his accomplishments during his tenure at the Office of Advocacy. In addition, a recent SBREFA panel on infectious diseases submits its final report to OSHA. The newsletter can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

In This Issue:

Legislative News
New Congress Brings New Leadership to Small Business Committee, 1

Message from the Chief Counsel
A Bittersweet Farewell, 3

Regulatory News
SBREFA Panel on Infectious Diseases Submits Final Report to OSHA, 2

January 2015 Small Business Advocate

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

Office of Advocacy Releases the Annual Report of the Office of Economic Research, FY 2014

January 15th, 2015 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy has released the Annual Report of the Office of Economic Research, FY 2014. In fiscal year 2014, Advocacy produced 23 contract and internal research reports on a variety of topics including access to capital, employment, environment, minority-and women-owned businesses, procurement, retirement, taxation and veterans. This annual report provides details about and a link to each of OER’s publications from FY 2014. The full report can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

OER Annual Report, FY 2014

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

November-December 2014 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Newsletter Released

December 18th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy has released the November-December 2014 issue of The Small Business Advocate newsletter. This edition features a recent trip to the Denver Biz Tech Expo where Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant was the keynote speaker. Also covered is Region III Advocate Ngozi Bell’s recent visit to West Virginia for the Women and Technology Conference. In addition, Assistant Chief Counsel Kevin Bromberg received an award from the EPA recognizing him for his work with the agency on underground storage tanks. We also look at two recently-released economic studies and several regulatory matters. The November-December issue of The Small Business Advocate can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

In This Issue

Regional News:
New Technology Trends on Display at the Denver Tech Expo, 1
Women and Technology Examined at West Virginia Conference, 4

Message from the Chief Counsel:
Startup Accelerators Show Promise in Addressing Public Policy Goals, 3

Regulatory News:
Advocacy Comments on DOJ Movie Theater Rules, 2
Comments to EPA on Petroleum Refinery Rules, 2
Energy Efficiency Standards for Ice Makers Addressed, 2
Comment Letter to CFPB on Home Mortgage Rules, 6
Regulatory Alert on Proposed IRS Rules, 7

Advocacy News:
New to Advocacy, 4
Assistant Chief Counsel Recognized by EPA, 5

Economic News:
Report Studies Financial Health of Veterans, 7
New Fact Sheets Released, 8

nov-dec_newsletter

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Small Business Lending Report Released

December 16th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy released its annual report on small business lending.  Small Business Lending in the United States, 2013 describes trends in the small business lending market in general. It also provides data on more than 6,000 U.S. lenders, showing the emphasis on small business lending in their portfolios.

The report covers the time period June 2012 to June 2013 using Call Report data from the FDIC, and supplements this with Community Reinvestment Act data from 2012. During this period, small business lending improved, but at a slower pace than large business lending. Soon afterward, small business lending entered positive territory. A data update is provided to cover these trends, extending into the first quarter of 2014.

The report and research summary are available on Advocacy’s webpage at https://www.sba.gov/advocacy/small-business-lending-united-states-2013.

Lending study chart

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

September-October 2014 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Released

October 15th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy released the September-October 2014 issue of The Small Business Advocate newsletter. It features Advocacy’s regional advocates’ tour of 1776, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that seeks to nurture local startup businesses by connecting them with a variety of resources. The message from the chief counsel explores the issue of the gender gap in STEM fields. In addition, rulemakings by the DOJ, CPSC, EPA, FCC, DOL and NOAA are discussed. Finally, the newsletter introduces Advocacy’s new staff members.

Articles in this issue include:

Regional News:
1776 Offers Startups Resources and Connections in the Heart of D.C.
Message from the Chief Counsel:
Leveling the Playing Field in STEM
Regulatory News:
Small Movie Theater Owners Discuss Proposed DOJ Accessibility Rules
Advocacy Responds to CPSC on Infant Carrier Rules
Letter Addresses Rule Redefining “Waters of the U.S.”
Advocacy Comments to FCC on Net Neutrality Proposal
Advocacy Raises Concerns about EPA Landfill Rules
Regulatory Alerts
Advocacy News:
New Staff Members Join the Office of Advocacy

Sept-Octnewsletter

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Innovative Funding Model from Silicon Valley Could Change How Non-Profits and Socially Responsible Firms Do Business

October 8th, 2014 · Comments Off

By Jonathan Porat, Regulatory Economist

Startups such as Dropbox, Reddit, and Airbnb have become aspirational success stories for entrepreneurs. They have made people’s lives easier, disrupted established industries through simple innovations, and in some cases received billion-dollar valuations. Some people however may not be aware that these high-growth and high-value startups have all taken advantage of an innovative funding mechanism for small businesses: the accelerator program. Now, startups in the non-profit sector are taking note and hoping to use this model traditionally leveraged by the tech sector to advance important public policy goals.

To paraphrase recent research from Cohen and Hochberg, accelerator programs are short-term mentorship programs for groups of startups that culminate in a demo day or a public pitch to large groups of investors. Often accelerators are for-profit entities that will provide mentorship services as well as some seed funding and additional resources in exchange for an equity stake in a participating startup. While accelerators have been around for almost a decade, due to the success of prototypical accelerators such as Y Combinator (the accelerator behind the companies mentioned at the top of this post), their popularity has surged.

Catalyzed by accelerator success stories and investors’ increasingly favorable view of them, the non-profit sector has started experimenting with this innovative model. Startups in the non-profit sector may have difficulty getting early-stage venture capital funding making these entrepreneurs hungry for an alternative.

One exemplar of this type of new “social accelerator” program is Conscious Ventures Lab, a benefit corporation located in Howard County, Maryland. In September, Conscious Ventures held its first demo day for its first cohort of five companies: all startups with social-welfare goals. These included one startup designed to connect women entrepreneurs to resources and funding sources and another that provides a curated marketplace for socially conscious consumers. The local economic development authority has even partnered with the accelerator to work toward its economic development and public policy goals. It will be interesting to see from these early efforts what lessons can be learned about future applications of the accelerator model in the non-profit and public sectors.

Clearly, the accelerator model has a lot of potential to be used to grow small businesses and could act as an agent of change in meeting public policy goals. However, there is no guarantee of success when participating in one of these programs. More importantly, there are still many unanswered questions about the accelerator model. There is little authoritative data available on accelerators, and it is unclear how to evaluate their success. In addition, possible unintended consequences and policy resistance of applying this model outside of the tech sector have been largely unexplored.

To add to the scarce research on this topic, on October 16th the Office of Advocacy released the new research report, Innovation Accelerators: Defining Characteristics among Startup Assistance Organizations, plus an issue brief. This research highlights key questions around accelerators as well as further explores the relevance of these programs for small businesses and policymakers. Advocacy looks forward to continuing to contribute to research and discussions on small business marketplace innovations.

Pictured: Jeff Cherry, executive director of Conscious Venture Lab, discusses its social and entrepreneurial mission. The lab has partnered with the Economic Development Authority of Howard County, Maryland. Photo: HCEDA.

Pictured: Jeff Cherry, executive director of Conscious Venture Lab, discusses its social and entrepreneurial mission. The lab has partnered with the Economic Development Authority of Howard County, Maryland. Photo: HCEDA.

Potential investors, supporters, and entrepreneurs turned out for Conscious Venture Lab’s first demo day in September. The audience heard pitches from five graduates of the first CVLab cohort, as well as a panel discussion on why non-profits should be part of the conscious capitalism movement. On the panel were Lawrence Twele, Howard County Economic Development Authority; Mike Couch, MakingChange; Bill Strathmann, Network for Good; Jeff Cherry, Conscious Venture Lab. Photo: HCEDA.

Potential investors, supporters, and entrepreneurs turned out for Conscious Venture Lab’s first demo day in September. The audience heard pitches from five graduates of the first CVLab cohort, as well as a panel discussion on why non-profits should be part of the conscious capitalism movement. On the panel were Lawrence Twele, Howard County Economic Development Authority; Mike Couch, MakingChange; Bill Strathmann, Network for Good; Jeff Cherry, Conscious Venture Lab. Photo: HCEDA.

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

Advocacy Helps Guide Small Food Importers through FDA Regulations

September 24th, 2014 · 3 Comments

By Yvonne Lee, Region 9 Advocate

Jacklyn Sher’s parents were refugees from Laos who came to the United States in 1976 with nothing but hope for a better life for their family. They worked hard—their first job was as night janitors at a fast food restaurant—and saved enough money to buy an old station wagon. The Shers then started delivering soy sauce to southern California food businesses. Twenty-seven years later, HC Foods is a successful food import and distribution company serving food businesses throughout the western U.S. This family-owned business now employs 25 workers and the Shers are most proud that they can provide for their employees health insurance, 401(k) and other benefits.

Recently Jacklyn was one of over 100 food importers, distributors and business owners who participated in an SBA National Ombudsman Regulatory Fairness Hearing in Cupertino, California, that the Office of Advocacy helped convene. It was the first time that most of these business owners have attended a government meeting and spoken before a government body about their experience with federal regulatory compliance and enforcement. For the past two years, Advocacy’s Assistant Chief Counsel Linwood Rayford and regional advocates have worked with food businesses like HC Foods to make sure they were aware of, and engaged with, the regulatory reviews under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This law was enacted in 2012 to ensure all food available to American consumers—domestic and imported—adheres to high safety standards.

Food importers told Advocacy that they support the goals of FSMA since their businesses depend on food safety as it directly affects their bottom line. However, they said that any new regulations must take into account the differences between independent small operations like theirs and large businesses. Food importers said they are particularly interested in FSMA’s Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP). The proposed FSVP regulations would require importers to verify that the importer’s foreign suppliers produce food in compliance with processes and procedures, including risk-based preventive controls, that provide the same level of public health protection as those required under the domestic requirements of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Small importers assert that the new program’s verification requirement would create an undue economic burden on small firms since they wouldn’t have the needed human and financial resources that larger corporations have to meet compliance. While these businesses told Advocacy they welcome their role in ensuring food safety, they said that the regulations need to be flexible, practical and reasonable to reflect the small food businesses’ resource challenges. Moreover, as more regulations under FSMA are implemented, they suggest that the final rules need to be enforced fairly and with transparency.

Advocacy has facilitated several public forums where small business stakeholders dialoged with FDA officials over the FSMA’s foreign facility re-inspection, importer re-inspection fee rates, importer risks and food transport safety provisions. The Asian Food Importers Alliance told Advocacy the discussions were positive and it would be the first time they would submit a comment letter to a federal agency.

As the FSMA’s regulations progress, Advocacy will continue to work with food importers and other industry stakeholders to ensure they have the opportunity to add their voice throughout the process.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

Proposed DOJ Rules Would Require Small Movie Theaters to Purchase Expensive Accessibility Devices for Disabled Patrons

August 28th, 2014 · Comments Off

By Janis Reyes, Assistant Chief Counsel

Last week, Economist Jonathan Porat and I visited the bustling University Mall Theatres in Fairfax, Virginia, to speak to owner Mark O’Meara about proposed Department of Justice (DOJ) rules that would require movie theaters to provide special accessibility equipment for guests with visual and hearing disabilities. We met O’Meara at the entrance of the three-screen theater on its popular “Two Dollar Tuesday,” where he sold discounted tickets and welcomed busloads of students and young families to his theater. The highest ticket price at this affordable theater is $4.

“Movie theater owners are all showmen,” said O’Meara. “We want to serve the audience.”

O’Meara has already voluntarily upgraded his two theaters to be able to show movies to disabled guests (he additionally owns another small theater, the Cinema Arts Theatre, which is also located in Fairfax). When he took out a loan of $600,000 to convert his theaters from analog to digital screens, he spent an extra $40,000 to purchase the equipment that the DOJ rules would require. However, under the proposed rules, he may have to purchase more of the devices.

During our visit to the theater, O’Meara allowed us to test the accessibility equipment at a showing of the animated movie “Rio 2.” First, we set up the closed captioning device, which costs around $500 each. The device, which attaches to the seat’s cup holder, allows deaf theatergoers to read the movie dialogue on a small individual screen in front of them. It was amazing how quickly my eyes grew accustomed to reading on this screen. We had previously tested closed captioning glasses (which cost approximately $1,000 each) at another theater. The glasses offered a better experience; however they are twice the price and more fragile.

We also tested the audio description equipment for blind guests, which are headphones that play audio describing what is happening in the scene on top of existing dialogue. Because we were watching a loud cartoon, it was harder to focus and understand what was going on in the movie using this technology.

DOJ released its proposed rules on August 1, 2014 which would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to require movie theaters to have these technologies available at all movie showings. Digital theaters would have six months to purchase individual captioning devices for roughly two percent of their seating capacity and one audio description device per screen. DOJ is also seeking public comment on whether it should adopt a four-year compliance date for movie theaters with analog or film screens to adopt captioning and audio description requirements or whether it should defer rulemaking on analog theaters until a later date.

For O’Meara, these new rules would mean that he would have to purchase additional devices to meet the two percent requirement, at an estimated cost of $20,000. Under the rules, he would be required to have more than 30 individual captioning devices and nine audio descriptive devices for his two theaters.

Other small businesses may have to expend even more resources if they have not yet converted to digital or purchased additional hardware and individual equipment. O’Meara stated that these high device requirements (2 percent of seats) do not reflect the low demand he has seen for this equipment at his theaters and hopes that the agency will adjust these ratios.

DOJ is accepting comments on this rule until September 30, 2014. The Office of Advocacy is holding a Small Business Roundtable to gather feedback on this rule on Monday, September 15, 2014, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST at the Small Business Administration Headquarters, 409 Third Street SW, Washington, DC. A conference call line is also available. If you are interested in attending, contact Janis Reyes at Janis.Reyes@sba.gov. Further information on the proposed rule can be found on Advocacy’s web site.

Mark O’Meara, owner of the University Mall Theatres in Fairfax, VA, speaks with a patron on a recent “Two Dollar Tuesday,” before a showing of “Rio 2.”

Mark O’Meara, owner of the University Mall Theatres in Fairfax, VA, speaks with a patron on a recent “Two Dollar Tuesday,” before a showing of “Rio 2.”

An individual closed captioning device is being used to display subtitles for the movie “Rio 2” at the University Mall Theatres in Fairfax, VA.

An individual closed captioning device is being used to display subtitles for the movie “Rio 2” at the University Mall Theatres in Fairfax, VA.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

August 2014 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Released

August 14th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy released the August 2014 edition of The Small Business Advocate. The newsletter features Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant’s recent trip to Oklahoma, where he met with small business representatives. In addition, the newsletter highlights Advocacy staff news and regulatory news.

In This Issue

Regional News:

  • Advocacy Leaders Learn About Oklahoma’s Small Business Landscape, 1

Staff News:

  • Christine Kymn Appointed Chief Economist and Director, Office of Economic Research, 2
  • Tayyaba Waqar Joins Advocacy as Assistant Chief Counsel, 2

Message from the Chief Counsel:

  • Leaving Advocacy in the New Year, 3

Regulatory News:

  • EPA, Corps Rules Would Redefine Scope of Waters Subject to the Clean Water Act, 3
  • FDA Rule Concerns Sanitary Transport of Food, 4
  • FWS Rule Would List Snakes as “Injurious,” 4
  • DOJ Proposes Rule Requiring Captioning for Movie Theaters, 4
  • CFPB Proposes to Amend Regulation C, 4

The full issue of the newsletter can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

newsletterAug2014

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

June-July 2014 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Released

July 22nd, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy released the June-July 2014 edition of The Small Business Advocate. The newsletter highlights The Office of Advocacy’s efforts to help the University of New Orleans (UNO) obtain a grant to study and improve a device used by coastal fisherman to protect sea turtles from their nets. Advocacy worked with small shrimping businesses along the coast of Louisiana to identify their concerns about the device, known as the turtle excluder device (or TED). UNO’s project aims to improve the device and make it easier and more cost-effective for small shrimpers to utilize. In addition, this issue covers recent Advocacy roundtable sessions dealing with two Department of Labor rulemakings: one on proposed minimum wage rules for federal contractors, and the other focusing on overtime regulations. The newsletter also introduces Advocacy’s new and improved State Small Business Profiles; summarizes a new Advocacy study on small business procurement goals; and links to recent comment letters.

In This Issue

Regional News:

  • Public-Private Effort Focuses on Improving Device to Protect Sea Turtles, 1

Message from the Chief Counsel:

  • Our Small Business Landscape: Advocacy Improves State Small Business Profiles, 3

Research News:

  • Office of Advocacy Releases Small Business Profiles, 2
  • Study Examines Small Business Procurement Goals, 7

Regulatory News:

  • Advocacy Roundtable Examines Proposed Minimum Wage Rules, 4
  • Small Business Representatives Discuss Overtime Regulations in Listening Session, 5
  • Regulatory Comment Letters, 8

Advocacy News:

  • Advocacy’s Chief Counsel Speaks on National Journal Panel, 6
  • Legal Interns Join Advocacy for the Summer, 7

The full issue of the newsletter can be found on Advocacy’s website here.

June-July newsletter front

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Small Business Quarterly Bulletin for First Quarter 2014 Released

July 14th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy released its Small Business Quarterly Bulletin for First Quarter 2014. This two-page publication includes charts and tables of economic variables to show the status of small business. This latest quarterly bulletin shows positive indicators for small businesses. The bulletin includes data about establishment birth and death rates, proprietors’ income, employment change by size of firm, labor turnover and self-employment.

The Small Business Quarterly Bulletin for First Quarter 2014 can be accessed on Advocacy’s web site here.

quarterly bulletin 2014

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

New Date Announced for Roundtable on Waters Protected under the Clean Water Act

June 30th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy’s environmental roundtable on the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA) has been rescheduled. The roundtable will now be held on Monday, July 21, 2014, from 10 a.m. to noon. The meeting will be held at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.

As described in an earlier blogpost, the roundtable is being convened to discuss a regulation proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The proposed rule defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Advocacy’s upcoming roundtable was announced on June 11 by EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe at a hearing held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment which explored the potential impacts of the proposed changes to the CWA jurisdictional rule.

The July 21 environmental roundtable meeting is open to all interested persons, with the exception of the press, in order to facilitate open and frank discussion about the impacts of the proposed regulation on small entities. The roundtable will feature a presentation of the rule by EPA and Corps representatives and a discussion of small business implications.

Please contact Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis or 202-205-6936 to learn more about the roundtable or to RSVP.

Background: Under the proposed rule, decisions regarding whether a body of water is subject to the CWA will affect small entities which need to determine whether their activities require authorization and/or permits under CWA.

Under the regulations, the term “waters of the United States” would mean:

(1) All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
(2) All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
(3) The territorial seas;
(4) All impoundments of waters as specifically identified in the rule;
(5) All tributaries of waters as specifically identified in the rule;
(6) All waters, including wetlands, adjacent to a water specifically identified in the rule; and
(7) On a case-specific basis, other waters, including wetlands, provided that those waters alone, or in combination with other similarly situated waters, including wetlands, located in the same region, have a significant nexus to a water specifically identified in the rule

Waters that do not meet this definition are not subject to the CWA. There are several programs under the CWA that would be affected by this proposed rule including but not limited to Section 311, oil spill prevention programs; Section 402, which requires permits for pollutant discharges; and Section 404, which covers permits for the placement of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States. Comments on the proposed rule are due by October 20, 2014.

At a Glance:
Who: U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy

What: Environmental Roundable on rules proposed by the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers implementing the Clean Water Act

When: Monday, July 21, 2014; 10 a.m. – noon

Where: Washington Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis, 202-205-6936

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

Advocacy Roundtables to Examine Proposed Overtime Regulations

June 26th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy is hosting two roundtable listening sessions concerning the presidential memorandum issued on March 13, 2014, directing the Department of Labor to propose revisions to modernize and streamline the existing overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The two roundtables will be held on:

  • Friday, July 11, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (EST); and
  • Friday, July 18, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (EST).

Both sessions will be held at the U.S. Small Business Administration, Eisenhower B Conference Room (concourse level), 409 Third Street, SW, Washington, DC 20416. The SBA headquarters is located at the Federal Center SW Metro stop on the Orange and Blue lines.

Dr. David Weil, Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of DOL, and Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy, will be present to listen to comments from small businesses on the potential impact of this memorandum. When DOL issues proposed regulations, there will be a formal notice and comment period during which all interested parties will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

Please RSVP by email if you plan to attend the meeting to: Janis.Reyes@sba.gov or Jonathan.Porat@sba.gov. Please RSVP for only ONE of the above times, as space is extremely limited. A call-in option will also be available upon request.

Background:
On March 13, 2014, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to the Department of Labor, directing the agency to modernize and streamline the existing regulations for executive, administrative and professional employees (often referred to as “white collar exemptions”). Most workers covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act receive Federal minimum wage and overtime pay. The upcoming DOL regulations may change the standards for white collar exemptions; and may increase the pay threshold (it is currently $455 a week/or $23,660 a year) and may change other requirements.  This could result in more workers eligible for overtime pay. Many small businesses may be impacted in a wide variety of industries, including businesses in the retail, hospitality, manufacturing, construction, finance and technology fields.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

Roundtable to Address Proposed Increase in Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

June 25th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy is hosting a roundtable discussion on July 8, 2014, to discuss a rule proposed by the Department of Labor implementing Executive Order 13658, which increases the hourly minimum wage for federal contractors, subcontractors and their workers to $10.10 per hour. Advocacy is interested in obtaining feedback from small business stakeholders at the roundtable because it has heard concerns from small federal contractors and subcontractors that this rule would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small businesses. Please see Advocacy’s Regulatory Alert on this rule.

The Department of Labor has set a due date for comments on this rule for July 17, 2014. However, the Office of Advocacy recently sent a letter to DOL requesting an extension of the comment period.

Details: The roundtable will be held on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. (EST) at the U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 Third Street, SW, Washington, DC 20416. It will take place in the Eisenhower Conference Room B (concourse level). DOL representatives have been invited to provide a briefing of this regulation at the roundtable.

Please RSVP by email if you plan to attend the meeting, or if you wish to obtain more information, to Janis.Reyes@sba.gov or Jonathan.Porat@sba.gov.

A call-in option will also be available upon request.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

Small Business Profiles Released

June 20th, 2014 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy released its annual report entitled Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories. In a new and improved format, the profiles feature information on small business employment, industry composition, small business borrowing, exporting, and survival rates, as well as business owner demographics. This annual publication provides information for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories and the United States.

Some key statistics from the report include:

  • The U.S. is home to 28 million small businesses.
  • Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all businesses with employees and employ about 55 million of the nation’s private-sector workforce.
  • Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of small business employment.
  • The top three small business industries with the most jobs include health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, and retail trade.
  • Most small businesses are sole proprietors. Annual income from sole proprietorships increased 7.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2013 and totaled $1.2 trillion.

The full report, as well as each individual state’s profile, can be accessed here on the Office of Advocacy’s web site.

us state profile

Figure from the U.S. Small Business Profile

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

EPA Deputy Administrator Announces Advocacy-Hosted Environmental Roundtable Examining Small Business Implications of Proposed Rules under the Clean Water Act

June 12th, 2014 · 3 Comments

At a Glance:
Who: U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy
What: Environmental Roundable on rules proposed by the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers affecting the Clean Water Act
When: Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. POSTPONED
Contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis, Kia.Dennis@sba.gov or 202-205-6936

UPDATE: This roundtable has  been postponed, and further details about the new date will be announced soon.

The Office of Advocacy will host an environmental roundtable on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. to discuss a regulation proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The proposed rule defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Advocacy’s upcoming roundtable was announced on June 11 by EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe at a hearing held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment which explored the potential impacts of the proposed changes to the CWA jurisdictional rule.

The June 24 environmental roundtable meeting is open to all interested persons, with the exception of the press, in order to facilitate open and frank discussion about the impacts of the proposed regulation on small entities. The roundtable will feature a presentation of the rule by EPA and Corps representatives and a discussion of small business implications.

Please contact Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis by email at Kia.Dennis@sba.gov or by telephone at 202-205-6936 to learn more about the roundtable or to RSVP.

Background: Under the proposed rule, decisions regarding whether or not a waterbody is subject to the CWA will affect small entities which need to determine whether or not their activities require authorization and/or permits under CWA.

Under the regulations, the term “waters of the United States” would mean:

(1) All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
(2) All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
(3) The territorial seas;
(4) All impoundments of waters as specifically identified in the rule;
(5) All tributaries of waters as specifically identified in the rule;
(6) All waters, including wetlands, adjacent to a water specifically identified in the rule; and
(7) On a case-specific basis, other waters, including wetlands, provided that those waters alone, or in combination with other similarly situated waters, including wetlands, located in the same region, have a significant nexus to a water specifically identified in the rule

Waters that do not meet this definition are not subject to the CWA. There are several programs under the CWA that would be affected by this proposed rule including but not limited to Section 311, oil spill prevention programs; Section 402, which requires permits for pollutant discharges; and Section 404, which covers permits for the placement of dredged or fill material in waters of the United States. Comments on the proposed rule are due by October 20, 2014.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

May 2014 Issue of The Small Business Advocate Released

May 30th, 2014 · Comments Off

The May 2014 issue of The Small Business Advocate is a special conference edition that highlights the events from the Office of Advocacy’s Region VI Symposium which took place earlier this month in New Orleans. The symposium brought together members of Advocacy with small business leaders and entrepreneurs from around Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas). The diverse participants shared their big ideas, best practices and barriers with Advocacy staff to take back to Washington, D.C. The newsletter includes details from presentations given by small business leaders, breakout sessions and site visits.

Articles in this issue include:

  • New Orleans Symposium Provides Valuable Lessons on Region VI Challenges and Successes, 1
  • Idea Village Connects the Local Community with Entrepreneurs, 2
  • Message from the Chief Counsel: The Gumbo of Entrepreneurship, 3
  • Advocacy Staff Dialogues With Small Business Stakeholders in Breakout Sessions, 4
  • Fostering Regional Innovation Accelerators, 5
  • Understanding the Waterways of Southeast Louisiana, 6
  • Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blends: Small Business, Big Aspirations, 6
  • Historic Theater Owners Share Concerns over Regulations, 7
  • NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility Puts Its Vast Facility to Good Use, 7

The May 2014 issue of The Small Business Advocate can be accessed on Advocacy’s web site here: http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-advocate-may-2014

May 2014 Advocate

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New Research Report Examines Declining Self-Employment Rate Among Baby Boomers

May 2nd, 2014 · Comments Off

A new report released by the Office of Advocacy examines the decline of the self-employment rate among baby boomers nearing retirement. Authored by Bradley T. Helm, the report entitled “Understanding Self-Employment Dynamics Among Individuals Nearing Retirement” explores the reasons behind why the self-employment rate (the proportion of the labor force that is self-employed) among individuals aged 55-64 has dropped substantially in the past 20 years.

“America’s baby boomers may not be the jumping-off point for entrepreneurial growth according to this report.  However, moving forward, we can inspire this population to start the business of their dreams and take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy.

According to the report, the self-employment rate among near-retirees was above 18 percent in 1994, but dropped to around 16 percent in the early 2000s, and dropped further to 14.3 percent in 2012.

The study addresses two questions about the decline. First, what is the defining factor causing the decreasing rate of self-employed individuals nearing retirement? And second, what economic and policy variables help to explain the change in these factors over time? This study utilizes almost 20 years of U.S. Census Bureau data to describe in greater detail the continuation, exit, and entry rates with respect to self-employment.

The study’s key findings show that the decline in the self-employment among baby boomers over the 1994-2012 period was driven by factors such as:

  • Self-employed individuals are choosing to find a job at a firm rather than being self-employed; and
  • The rate of self-employment among 55-year-olds (who comprise about 12 percent of the self-employed aged 55-64) has decreased relative to all those age 55-64, while the share of 55-year-olds has increased.

In addition, the study finds that other factors, such as the affordability of individual health insurance, play a role. The author suggests that especially during a recession, individuals are hesitant to leave jobs that provide health insurance.

The author concludes that the findings indicate a need for policies to reduce the exits of near-retirees from self-employment to private wage and salary employment and to increase entrepreneurship among younger individuals. Policy recommendations include increasing the availability and affordability of private health insurance. The author states that an important area for future research will be to evaluate the extent to which recent changes due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 affect rates of self-employment.

The full report, “Understanding Self-Employment Dynamics Among Individuals Nearing Retirement,” as well as a summary, can be viewed on the Office of Advocacy’s website.

Self-employment rates

Self-employment rates

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Promising Startups Recognized by Water Technology Nonprofit

March 27th, 2014 · Comments Off

Drought

By Yvonne Lee, Region IX Advocate

On March 17, I met 12 fascinating water technology entrepreneurs from around the world. These innovative food and agricultural businesses were the finalists selected to attend the 2014 Imagine H2O (IH2O) Boot Camp in San Francisco, where they had the opportunity to meet with a network of potential investors.

Imagine H2O is a nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage innovators to solve the world’s water problems. It achieves this goal by hosting competitions and providing an accelerator program for innovative startup businesses. The boot camp was organized by IH2O’s Food and Agriculture Program, which supports emerging water businesses whose primary value proposition improves water use, treatment, supply, or discharge in the food and agriculture sector.

With much of the U.S. facing water challenges—California has suffered the driest year in history, thereby forcing many farmers to abandon their fields—these innovative businesses promise to help farmers and ranchers use innovative and clean energy to deliver cost efficient and safe food products to American consumers.

For example, one startup company recycles discarded produce from supermarkets into liquid fertilizers for farmers in less than three hours. Another growth-stage firm developed innovative manure treatment technology to recycle livestock manure into clean water. Its CEO drank the end product and lived to make a lively investment pitch the next day. A couple of other entrepreneurs offered aerial technology to help growers concentrate their water and fertilizer input/output and disease prevention down to a specific plant while maintaining production management and data.

While these entrepreneurs passionately believe their businesses will improve the overall availability, affordability, and safety of sustainable food, they also recognize innovative water technology is more challenging to attract capital compared to other high technology businesses. Although more venture capital firms have begun to pay attention to this industry, the main source of capital continues to come from angel investors, crowdfunding, family businesses, and foundations. Many entrepreneurs expressed interest in the Office of Advocacy’s work involving the new crowdfunding and other capital fund rules. And, since patents are central to innovative water technology development and commercialization, these entrepreneurs are also concerned with intellectual property, patent, and trademark protection.

Several of the finalists chosen to attend the IH2O Boot Camp were non-U.S. firms. I was intrigued to hear that one Australian family-owned water technology business has decided to move its manufacturing factory from China to the United States for their new business building above-ground, non-submerged bioreactors. These products can help U.S. and global agricultural businesses achieve regulated discharge standards at low energy and cost.

The owners of the Australian company told me they were attracted to the U.S. as a manufacturing hub because America produces higher quality work that is recognized around the world. More importantly, trademark and intellectual property are legally enforced, enabling small businesses to focus their resources on research, development, and marketing. As for the labor cost advantage China and much of Asia had once offered, it has gradually been eroded, making the U.S. labor force more competitive.

The owners did relate, however, that they have some concerns regarding regulations in the U.S. They said they would welcome a simpler understanding of regulatory costs, compliance, and procedures related to exporting to Asia, the European Union, and Australia without the need to employ a regulatory consultant that larger firms could afford. Their final decision on where to build their factory would factor in which U.S. region offers a friendly regulatory approval environment, competitive port charges, and time-sensitive export processing. These are significant costs to manufacturing for the global market in the U.S.

I also met with a previous IH2O competition winner who suggested the water technology industry is heavily regulated by at least a half a dozen federal agencies. He said he was concerned that any duplicative or lengthy review and approval process could slow down or detour the concept to marketing track for early-stage firms.

According to IH2O, 80 percent of the world’s water is connected to food and agriculture. These amazing water technology entrepreneurs and others will continue to find innovative ways to increase resources to support agricultural businesses. And Advocacy will continue to amplify their interests and concerns.

Yvonne Lee is Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the territory of Guam. You can reach her at yvonne.lee@sba.gov.

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Message from the Chief Counsel: Success Stories from the 2013 Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act

March 24th, 2014 · Comments Off

By Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy

Each year around this time, the Office of Advocacy issues the annual report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The report tells the story of Advocacy’s Office of Interagency Affairs, the group of administrative attorneys who track new proposed rules and encourage federal agencies to fulfill their RFA requirements to properly evaluate the impact of their proposed rules on small businesses. Our Office of Interagency Affairs consists of just over a dozen attorneys, assisted by a handful of regulatory economists. Yet Interagency tracks the work of more than 66 regulatory agencies.

RFAgraphic

While this is a herculean effort, it has a parallel in the small business world. Small business owners are the hardest working individuals I know. For many of them, the 40-hour work week and the two-week vacation are unknowns. The federal regulatory proposals that affect them are hundreds of pages long, and the time it takes to go from proposal to final rule often stretches over many years. Few, if any, small business owners are in a position to track the proposed rules that affect them and to make their views known.

Luckily, the RFA designates the Office of Advocacy as the RFA’s watchdog. Advocacy stays for the duration, monitoring rules over many years. Advocacy’s Office of Interagency Affairs monitors the Federal Register, works with agencies before and after rules are proposed, reaches out to small businesses, and conveys small business concerns in formal comment letters to agencies as the need arises.

In FY 2013, agencies finalized 14 rules that included changes in response to small business concerns raised by Advocacy. These rules affect millions of small businesses and they are a clear illustration of how the RFA works for small business. These changes saved small businesses at least $2.5 billion in first-year regulatory costs, while ensuring that agencies were able to meet their regulatory goals.

One of these rules concerned proposed changes to the On-site Consultation Program of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Complying with every OSHA requirement can be a formidable challenge for a small business. OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program provides free, confidential advice to small employers looking to create safe workplaces. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. In 2010, OSHA proposed changes potentially opening participants to enforcement actions. Advocacy’s November 2010 comment letter expressed concern that this would discourage participation in a highly effective program. In August 2013, OSHA withdrew the proposed rule, leaving this successful program intact.

While the savings due to this action have no precise price tag, the benefits are clear. One person commented on Advocacy’s blog, “Small businesses often lack the funding or resources to hire an outside consultant so this program is very beneficial. It is so important to remain within OSHA compliance and it is a relief to read that OSHA is keeping the wall of separation between the consultation and enforcement departments.”

A second important rule change came from the Internal Revenue Service. In January 2013, the IRS announced a simplified option for claiming the home-office deduction. Over half of America’s small businesses are based at home, and they have long been subject to a great deal of paperwork if they wanted to take the business use of their home as a deduction on their taxes. Advocacy pressed this issue for decades. Most recently, in a 2009 letter to the Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board’s Tax Reform Subcommittee, Advocacy submitted a proposal to simplify the home-office deduction. The IRS estimates that this change in the rule will reduce the paperwork burden on small businesses by 1.6 million hours annually, which Advocacy estimated as saving $32 million. In announcing the change, the IRS called it “common sense.”

A third regulatory success story concerns home mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to guard against the practices that brought the U.S. financial system to the brink of collapse. Advocacy has been involved in several of the agency’s rulemakings on home mortgages. In January 2013, the CFPB finalized the Mortgage Servicing rule. In issuing the final rule, CFPB recognized that small mortgage servicers were not the cause of the problem the rule was meant to address. As such, the CFPB exempted 96 percent of small servicers from certain requirements in the final rule, resulting in savings of between $1 billion and $2.3 billion.

These three examples represent years of vigilance by Advocacy’s Office of Interagency Affairs. Thanks to the RFA, this dedicated effort continues on rules of great importance to small businesses. Advocacy’s FY 2014 efforts are in high gear. The RFA continues to be small businesses’ best defense in the rulemaking process.

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Forum Seeks to Transform Maryland’s Small Business Ecosystem (Rescheduled to February 28)

February 12th, 2014 · Comments Off

On February 28, the SBA Office of Advocacy is visiting the state of Maryland, for the Voice of Small Business Forum to meet and learn from the state’s small businesses about the current business environment they are working in. It is the Office of Advocacy’s goal to engage, listen, and document the “big ideas, barriers, and best practices” that can influence policies to ensure future small business success.

The event will be held on Friday, February 28, from 8:00am to 4:30pm at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Research Center, 1450 S Rolling Road, Baltimore, MD 21227.

The six sessions will include discussions on:

  • Clean Technology
    • Business products, services and processes related to reducing/eliminating negative ecological impacts and improving use of natural resources
  • New Economy
    • Using the internet as a medium to support online business plans and domestic and international e-commerce
  • Cyber Defense/IT
    • Business innovators focused on supporting systems and networks that help ensure organizations anticipate and withstand system attacks
  • BioScience
    • Businesses addressing and innovating solutions for the life science and  human health sectors
  • NexGen Entrepreneurs
    • Entrepreneurs and inventors younger than 35 who are establishing a presence in the small business arena
  • Women, Veteran, Minority and Small Business Government Contractors

To register to attend and find out more about the event, visit the Voice of Small Business Forum website.

Note: This event was rescheduled from an earlier date due to bad weather.

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High Tech and Viniculture on Display During Tour of New Hampshire Women-Owned Businesses

February 5th, 2014 · Comments Off

On January 10, a group of intrepid New Englanders braved the weather (including a major highway closure due to ice and accidents) to join U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit for a roundtable discussion and business tour outside Manchester, New Hampshire. The day focused on women-owned businesses. While business owners’ concerns were diverse and wide-ranging, a single common theme emerged—the very limited availability of microloans.

Following the roundtable, Regional Advocate Lynn Bromley joined Senator Shaheen, Acting Administrator Hulit, and other SBA officials for a tour of two small businesses owned by women.

First was LaBelle Winery, where the roundtable was held. Winery owner Amy Labelle was named New Hampshire’s 2013 Woman Owned Small Business of the year, and for good reason. She and her husband, cellarmaster Cesar Arboleda, have grown their business from an idea 10 years ago to today’s ambitious enterprise. The business now employs 45 people in a facility that includes a store, café, tasting room, and the large post-and-beam function hall where the roundtable took place.

Before moving to her new location, LaBelle was bottling 18,000 gallons a year. One year and 27 stainless steel tanks later, she is producing 30,000 gallons. And she hopes to expand further.

LaBelle spent $5.3 million dollars on the new winery, a sum she calls “terrifying.” She calls her effort to secure financing a “study in persistence.” She and her husband pitched their plans to five banks before successfully arranging financing.

The second stop on the tour was Ion Beam Milling, a precision manufacturer of high-tech thin film products. These include standard microwave circuits as well as custom products built for specific applications.

Gail Quagan and her husband Bob founded Ion Beam Milling in 1982. Gail (the businesswoman) and Bob (the scientist) grew their business from a small facility with one miller, one machine, and two employees to today’s larger, modern facility with 13 full-time employees. CEO Jim Barrett now runs the day-to-day operations, Bob remains the chief science officer, and Gail the CFO.

As we were packing up to go, Barrett put in a plug for another local woman-owned business. Jim’s wife, Claudia Barrett, is the founder of a home-based coffee roasting business, CQ Coffee Roasters. That business is in full swing too—and fast outgrowing its space.

Pictured: In the lab at Ion Beam Milling, one of the company’s technicians explains their manufacturing process to the tour group. The group includes (from left) Ion Beam CEO Jim Barrett, Region I Administrator Seth Goodall, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Region I Advocate Lynn Bromley, and Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit.

Pictured: In the lab at Ion Beam Milling, one of the company’s technicians explains their manufacturing process to the tour group. The group includes (from left) Ion Beam CEO Jim Barrett, Region I Administrator Seth Goodall, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Region I Advocate Lynn Bromley, and Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit.

—Lynn Bromley, Region I Advocate

Lynn Bromley is Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. You can reach her at lynn.bromley@sba.gov.

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Advocacy Asks SEC to Add Essential Small Business Analysis to Crowdfunding Proposal

January 22nd, 2014 · Comments Off

On January 16, the Office of Advocacy filed a public comment letter with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding the agency’s proposed rule on crowdfunding. The proposed rule provides the framework for the practice of crowdfunding, a method of financing by which small businesses and startups may offer stocks to a wide variety of investors online through funding portals and broker dealers.

Advocacy based its comment letter on feedback from small businesses. Specifically, Advocacy hosted small business roundtables in New York City (December 16, 2013) and Washington, D.C., (January 15, 2014) to gather input from small business representatives about the proposed rule. Advocacy also hosted several conference calls on this issue.

Assistant Chief Counsel Dillon Taylor facilitates a discussion of small business concerns with the SEC’s crowdfunding proposal at the New York City roundtable in December.

Pictured: Assistant Chief Counsel Dillon Taylor facilitates a discussion of small business concerns with the SEC’s crowdfunding proposal at the New York City roundtable in December.

Based on small business stakeholders’ feedback, Advocacy’s comment letter expresses concern that the initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) contained in the proposed rule lacks essential information required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). Advocacy’s comment letter notes that the IRFA does not adequately describe the costs of the proposed rule for small entities. In addition, the IRFA fails to offer significant alternatives which accomplish the SEC’s stated objectives and minimize the proposal’s significant economic impact on small entities.

Advocacy recommended that the SEC republish a supplemental IRFA for public comment before proceeding with the rulemaking and that the agency consider small business representatives’ suggested alternatives to minimize the proposed rule’s potential impact.

Dillon Taylor, Assistant Chief Counsel

Pictured: Advocacy held a second roundtable in Washington, D.C., on January 15. Addressing the group is Samuel S. Guzik, a California-based securities attorney. Guzik provided a small business perspective on the SEC proposed rule.

Pictured: Advocacy held a second roundtable in Washington, D.C., on January 15. Addressing the group is Samuel S. Guzik, a California-based securities attorney. Guzik provided a small business perspective on the SEC proposed rule.

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Positive Small Business Indicators in 2013 and the Challenge Ahead

January 7th, 2014 · 3 Comments

The Year in Review: Implications for Small Businesses

Two important economic indicators released late in 2013—employment and interest rates—give us some optimism about small business and economic growth trends. Both of these indicators are key to consumer spending, which drives two-thirds of our nation’s economic activity.

At 7 percent, the unemployment rate in November 2013 was at its lowest level since 2008. Small businesses are responsible for 63 percent or 4.3 million of the 6.9 million jobs created since the recovery began. Interest rates rose slightly during the year but remain at historical lows. This has benefited the interest-sensitive construction and automobile industries, which had suffered sharp downturns following the Great Recession. In November 2013, building construction employment reversed its downturn and increased 3.3 percent over the prior year; 85 percent of these jobs are in small businesses. While automakers are typically large businesses, 74 percent of jobs in motor vehicle and parts are found in small businesses; these have benefited from 5.4 percent employment growth in this sector.

In addition to these promising trends, lower interest rates and dwindling inventories have led to double-digit increases in home prices in major metropolitan areas. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index of property prices in 20 cities climbed 13.6 percent from October 2012, the biggest 12-month gain since February 2006. Home equity is an important source of capital for small business, so improvement in home prices and home equity should boost access to capital. 

[Read more →]

→ 3 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics

Advocacy Testimony: Small Business Needs Improved Guidance on Reverse Auctions

December 20th, 2013 · Comments Off

Capitol dome detail

Every year, the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on products and services across the country, making it the largest goods purchaser in the United States. Although this is a great opportunity for small businesses, it is often times an unrealized one. Small businesses create 60 percent of the net new jobs in this country and employ half of the private-sector workforce. So if America provided more federal contracts to small businesses, it would grow the economy of the United States. The federal government is already working to encourage small business participation in the procurement sector.

For example, a new GSA program by the federal government will hopefully increase the availability of government contracts to small businesses. The reverse auction program puts a request of goods and services online and gives businesses the opportunity to bid on providing the goods and services. Through the auction process, federal agencies award contracts to the lowest bidder while increasing the savings to the American taxpayer.

Although the intention of the program is good, the results have had mixed reviews. Many believe it works for the purchase of goods or simple services. However, when entering into more complex agreements and services, some believe the program is flawed.

Last week, the Office of Advocacy’s Assistant Chief Counsel Major Clark testified on the subject during a joint hearing of two subcommittees, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In his testimony, Clark stated that the Office of Advocacy is not in opposition to reverse auctions in the federal marketplace; however, the office is committed to making sure that small business stakeholders have full opportunity to participate.

Moving forward, Advocacy believes we can continue to encourage participation by small businesses in the federal procurement process. For this particular program, Advocacy believes it is necessary that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy give clear guidance for reverse auctions to small businesses. Once small businesses are able to fully understand how reverse auctions will be carried out, small businesses will be able to not only participate, but also, gain these lucrative contracts.

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Advocacy Legal, Economic Staff Visit Small Municipal Landfill

December 12th, 2013 · Comments Off

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of revising the standards for municipal solid waste landfills required by the Clean Air Act. As a first step, EPA is conducting a Small Business Advocacy Review panel. This activity brings together the key rulemaking agencies and small business representatives of the industry that the rules will apply to. The panel lets the various parties discuss the approach to achieving air pollution reductions.

The topic of the panel, New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfills, deals with the emissions of landfill gases, the result of biological materials decaying in landfills.  These gases are mostly carbon dioxide and methane, but EPA regulates them because of the small amount of other organic chemicals also released that can endanger public health.

Staff from Advocacy, EPA and the Office of Management and Budget have met twice with small entity representatives (SERs) to discuss the major issues. After participating in these discussions, Advocacy staff wanted to get a better understanding of the issues facing small municipalities and small businesses owning or operating landfills.

At the invitation of one of the SERs, four Advocacy staffers visited two landfills on the Delmarva Peninsula. (Delmarva is the three-state landmass between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean shared by Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.)

The first landfill (pictured below) was a small and relatively new one located in Caroline County, Maryland. The operators were just installing the first set of landfill gas controls on its first “cell.” (A cell is a section of the landfill.  Each landfill will have several cells, but will accept solid waste on only one cell at a time,  building up the cell over a hundred feet before moving to the next cell.)  The system of controls requires digging a trench into the compacted trash and laying perforated pipe to collect and move the landfill gases  to well heads set in the side of the pile.  From the well heads, landfill gas can be flared or, if there is enough volume,  burned to generate electricity.

Pictured: In November, four Advocacy staffers got a firsthand account of how landfill operators comply with Clean Air Act requirements. Making the trip were Director of Interagency Affairs Charles Maresca, Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker, and Economists Christine Kymn and Jonathan Porat. They are standing alongside perforated pipes whichare buried in trenches to collect landfill gases  and direct them to well heads.

Pictured: In November, four Advocacy staffers got a firsthand account of how landfill operators comply with Clean Air Act requirements. Making the trip were Director of Interagency Affairs Charles Maresca, Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker, and Economists Christine Kymn and Jonathan Porat. They are standing alongside perforated pipes which are buried in trenches to collect landfill gases and direct them to well heads.

 

The second landfill was a much larger and older facility; it had both open and closed cells with active control and energy recovery systems.  The engineers at both sites were extremely generous with their time, patiently explaining the basics of landfill management and the complexities of dealing with EPA regulations.

Advocacy staff find that site visits like these are invaluable to understanding the issues small entities face in regulatory compliance and help Advocacy present the small entity view to regulating agencies.

—David Rostker, Assistant Chief Counsel

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Conference Examines Changing Environment in Government and Its Impact on Minority Suppliers

November 25th, 2013 · Comments Off

In October, I participated on a panel at the national conference of the National Minority Supplier Development Council in San Antonio, Texas. The two-hour panel examined the changing environment in government and its impact on minority suppliers.

The Council promotes business opportunities for its 16,000 certified minority-owned businesses (mostly small), and connects them to its 3,500 corporate members. These include most of America’s largest companies, plus universities and other buying institutions. The importance of the minority business sector to overall health of the American economy should not be overlooked. Data shows that minority-owned firms are increasing in actual numbers and the amount of gross receipts. They are also creating jobs at a faster pace than non-minority businesses in a wide range of industries including professional, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance, and construction. As these firms grow and build capacity the positive economic effects will be seen not only in minority communities but the country as a whole.

Other individuals on the panel included:

  • Gloria Pualan, director of Small Business Liaison/Socio-Economic Business Programs, Northrup Grumman;
  • Janice Williams-Hopkins, purchasing & supply management specialist for the U.S. Postal Service; and
  • David Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce

While each speaker discussed their individual programs, the main takeaways from the panel included:

  • Government remains the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. It has goals for doing business with small disadvantaged businesses. These goals should help increase opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses.
  • Prime contractors seem to be increasingly willing to examine unique partnering opportunities with minority businesses to work on government contracts.
  • The amount of help for small minority-owned businesses and subcontractors is growing. This is happening through the growth of mentor-protégée programs sponsored by government and corporations or prime contractors, as well as via other MBDA and SBA programs.

There was great information provided to attendees about the benefits of the federal government both as a customer and a resource to build their businesses. The Office of Advocacy is one of these resources. As the independent voice for small business within the federal government, we help small businesses by reviewing regulations before they become final and by performing and promoting economic research on small business and the economy. In addition, Advocacy’s Innovation Initiative is a project where we seek input from the innovation ecosystem on the challenges in starting and growing innovation businesses as well as solutions to these challenges.

I was glad for the opportunity to reach out to a traditionally underserved, yet growing, business sector.

Mark Harrison, Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Preliminary Framework to Protect Critical Infrastructure from Cyberattack Introduced

October 25th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Online attacks on the nation’s critical infrastructure are one of the most serious challenges to U.S. national security. Power generation, transportation and telecommunications are the backbone of U.S. critical infrastructure, and these sophisticated systems rely on information technology, which makes them susceptible to online attacks.

In February 2013, President Obama issued Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, outlining steps to reduce the risk of cyberattack on power, transportation, and telecom networks.

On October 22, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework. The framework is the first step in helping critical infrastructure owners and operators reduce the risk of cyberattack. It outlines a set of steps that can be customized to various sectors and adapted by both large and small organizations while providing a consistent approach to cybersecurity. It also helps identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement within the context of risk management and to assess progress toward cybersecurity goals.

Framework Core Structure

Pictured: The framework core structure outlines the approach to assessing threats. From “Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework,” page 5.

In the near future, NIST will provide an opportunity for the public to submit comments on the framework. The Office of Advocacy will issue a Regulatory Alert when the public comment period opens. NIST plans to release the official framework in February 2014, as called for in the executive order.

Additional information about the preliminary framework is available on NIST’s website. For more information, call or email Assistant Chief Counsel Major Clark, (202) 205-7150.

—Assistant Chief Counsel Major Clark III

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy

The Regulatory Flexibility Act + The Office of Advocacy = Small Business’s Voice in Federal Rulemaking

September 27th, 2013 · Comments Off

Pictured: Sarah Bresolin Silver, assistant chief counsel, and Doug Babbitt, executive vice president of Rutland Plywood Corporation, on a site visit to the Vermont small business in July.
Pictured: Sarah Bresolin Silver, assistant chief counsel, and Doug Babbitt, executive vice president of Rutland Plywood Corporation, on a site visit to the Vermont small business in July.

The federal rulemaking process can be long and involved. The Office of Advocacy plays a small but important role in this process which is spelled out in the Regulatory Flexibility Act and several executive orders. The Environmental Protection Agency’s formaldehyde rulemaking is a current example of how the office makes sure small business is represented throughout a prolonged, complex process. (Table 1 contains a brief timeline.)

 Table1

 
The topic of regulating formaldehyde in home building materials dates to 2005, when the trailers housing the residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina were found to have high levels of formaldehyde gas. The push for regulations was launched in 2008. In March of that year, 25 organizations and 5,000 individuals petitioned EPA to adopt the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) airborne toxic control measures for formaldehyde in composite wood products nationally. In June, EPA announced a decision to grant some parts of the petition, and the agency issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in December.

Advocacy became involved in fall of 2010 when EPA convened a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel. SBREFA requires that EPA seek input from affected small businesses before proposed rules are published. At this early stage, small businesses can help shape the regulatory approach, which is much more effective than asking for substantive changes after a rule has been proposed.

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Small Business Reg Alerts: U.S.–Canada Trade and Healthcare Reporting

September 18th, 2013 · Comments Off

US, Canada Flags web

Progress of the U.S.–Canada Effort to Streamline Regulatory Differences

On August 29, the Office of Management and Budget asked for comments on the U.S.–Canada Regulation Cooperation Council’s progress.

Background: In February 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the creation of the Canada–U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). The council is charged with addressing regulatory differences between the two governments and working to improve free and open trade that encourages jobs and growth in both countries. Now, the RCC wants stakeholder input for issues and/or sectors that should be considered for future cooperation between countries. Comments are due by Friday, October 11, 2013.

magnifying glass and clipboard small

 Affordable Care Act Reporting Requirement

On September 5, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a proposed regulation to implement the information reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Background: The regulation would require insurers, self-insured employers, government-sponsored programs, and entities that provide minimum essential coverage to report information on this coverage to the IRS and to covered individuals. As part of the effort to minimize the cost and administrative steps associated with the reporting requirements, the proposed regulations do not require reporting information that would not be needed by individual taxpayers or the IRS for purposes of administering the individual shared responsibility provisions or the credit for small employers. All small businesses that provide minimum essential coverage are affected by this rule. The comment deadline is November 8, 2013.

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New England Small Business Weighs in on U.S.–E.U. Trade Arrangements

September 12th, 2013 · Comments Off

US, EU flags small

The United States and European Union have begun negotiating a new trade agreement, the proposed U.S.–E.U. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or T-TIP). This transatlantic trade partnership was announced by President Obama in February 2013. It is envisioned as an ambitious, high-standard trade and investment agreement that will promote U.S. international competitiveness, jobs, and growth.

As the voice for small business in the federal government, the Office of Advocacy has been helping small businesses make their concerns heard, especially those that pertain to regulatory differences between the U.S. and E.U. systems that pose barriers to our exports.

On July 26, Advocacy partnered with the Massachusetts Export Center to host a roundtable discussion on T-TIP. The event gave New England small businesses the opportunity to meet with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the primary agency responsible for conducting trade negotiations.

Forty-one people registered for the roundtable, representing 26 companies in the areas of banking, high tech, energy, medical devices, eyewear, fisheries, and textiles.  Fifteen were goods or services exporters and four were import/export/trading companies. 

[Read more →]

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Hidden Hawaii: Tropical Climate Is also a Startup Paradise

August 29th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Pictured: A rainbow crossed the sky on the drive to the University of Hawaii.

With its year-round warm winds, clear blue waters, and fresh scent of plumeria in the air, Hawaii is a popular destination for tourists from around the world. In the first half of 2013, some 4.2 million travelers visited Hawaii’s six islands, and in the month of June alone, tourists infused $1.3 billion into local businesses. Hawaii is truly a tropical paradise, and tourism is indeed its top economic sector. In addition to adventuresome tourists, the state has also been attracting another group of venture seekers—innovators and entrepreneurs who see Hawaii as a great place to locate high-tech and high-growth startups.

During my recent visit with government representatives and business leaders, they shared the numerous exciting innovative initiatives designed to support Hawaii’s cutting edge startups in life science, high tech and new energy. Their vibrant public-private partnership and the “Aloha” spirit of friendship and mutual support have yielded an ecosystem of Discovery (research), Development (incubators and accelerators), and Commercialization (capital investment) to attract entrepreneurs to invest in Hawaii.

Supporting these efforts from the public sector are the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the High Technology Development Corporation; the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation;  the Foreign Trade Zone; the University of Hawaii; and numerous federal agencies. Private sector collaborators include business leaders from HiBEAM—the Hawaii Business Entrepreneur Acceleration Mentors, Blue Startups, Hawaii Angels, Entrepreneurs Foundation of Hawaii  and  many  others.

According to a recent CNN Money article, Hawaii ranks among the 10 most entrepreneurial states for startups. While being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean can present some challenges, its close proximity to California and Asia provide opportunities to attract broad investments and a variety of strategic partners resulting in local and national economic growth.

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New England: America’s Collaboration Headquarters

August 28th, 2013 · 1 Comment

BID innovators meeting

Pictured: Dr. Sargeant and Regional Advocate Lynn Bromley participate in a conversation about the next generation of innovation—which includes communal living and office space—with entrepreneurs who run startup incubators and co-work spaces in Boston.

Growing up, we learn the value of a team. Whether we get an A on a group project or become the point guard in high school basketball, we understand the importance of working together toward a common goal. As adults, we sometimes forget the necessity of teamwork; instead, we put competition on a pedestal. We believe success only comes when we have surpassed our competitors. However, it’s another story in New England—the ecosystem of innovation through teamwork.

This summer I traveled to America’s collaboration headquarters on the University of Maine campus in Orono, Maine, and in the Boston Innovation District. Lynn Bromley, Advocacy’s New England regional advocate, accompanied me on the trip. Lynn covers Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut.

 My trip took me from student laboratories to entrepreneurial apartments. Whether I sat down with student inventors creating businesses and new jobs in Orono after graduation or accelerators hoping to empower more entrepreneurship in Boston, the collegial vibe filled the atmosphere.

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OSHA Withdraws Proposed Changes to Its On-site Consultation Program

August 21st, 2013 · 1 Comment

Each year, thousands of small businesses take advantage of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s On-Site Consultation Program. This voluntary program offers small businesses free confidential advice to identify workplace hazards and to put in place effective safety and health management systems.

Following a safety inspection of the work site, a safety consultant works with the employer to abate any identified safety hazards in a timely manner.  Many small businesses utilize this popular program to ensure a safe workplace.  This is why the Office of Advocacy and other small business representatives were alarmed when OSHA published a draft rule proposing a change in the criteria surrounding enforcement inspections of participants in the On-site Consultation program.

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Small Business Regulatory Alert: Deadline Extended for Comments on Passenger Vessel Accessibility Guidelines

August 14th, 2013 · Comments Off

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) has extended the public comment period for proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Comments are now due on January 24, 2014.

Developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the guidelines provide design criteria for newly constructed or newly altered large vessels to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities.  As proposed, the guidelines would apply to cruise ships and other vessels that carry over 150 passengers or at least 50 overnight passengers.  They also cover ferries designed to carry 100 or more passengers and tenders allowed to carry 60 or more passengers.  The Access Board is not proposing requirements for smaller vessels at this time due to design challenges, space constraints, and other factors.

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Regulatory Alerts: FDA Issues Two Draft Rules on Safety of Imported Food

August 8th, 2013 · Comments Off

One in six Americans suffers from a food borne illness every year, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In July, the FDA announced two proposed rules to ensure the safety of imported foods. The rules are required by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years. Signed in 2011, FSMA aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. 

Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals, 78 Fed. Reg. 45729, published July 29, 2013.  The rule would require importers to conduct risk-based foreign supplier verification activities to verify that imported food is not, among other things, adulterated and that it was produced in compliance with FDA’s preventive controls or produce safety requirements, where applicable.  It would require importers to maintain a list of foreign suppliers, create and follow written procedures for supplier verification activities, review the results of verification activities and, if hazards are not adequately controlled, take appropriate corrective action.

Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors/Certification Bodies to Conduct Food Safety Audits and Issue Certifications, 78 Fed. Reg. 45781, published July 29, 2013. This rule would establish a program for accreditation of third-party auditors to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign facilities and their foods.  The proposal contains requirements relating to monitoring and oversight of participating accreditation bodies and auditors at every level.  These include procedures that FDA will follow when removing an auditor or an accreditation body from the program, for good cause. 

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Two Regulatory Alerts: Report on Trade Barriers, Updating Home Health Care Rules

August 2nd, 2013 · Comments Off

EU Trade Restrictions and U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

The United States International Trade Commission has announced that it is seeking information for a report that will identify trade-related barriers that U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) perceive as disproportionately affecting their exports to the European Union (as compared to large firms). The commission will be releasing its report on July 31, 2014.  The notice appeared in the Federal Register on July 30.

  • A public hearing will be held in Washington, D.C., on October 8, 2013.
  • Deadline for filing requests to appear at the public hearing: September 13, 2013.
  • Deadline for filing pre-hearing briefs and statements: September 20, 2013.
  • Deadline for statements: October 15, 2013.

Advocacy contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Sarah Bresolin Silver

 

Updating Home Health Regulations

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published its proposed rule on Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Home Health Prospective Payment System Rate Update for Calendar Year 2014, Home Health Quality Reporting Requirements, and Cost Allocation of Home Health Survey Expenses.

Background: This proposed rule would update the Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) rates effective January 1, 2014.  This rule proposes “rebasing” rate adjustments for home health providers and also establishes some quality reporting requirements.

Key Issues: CMS certified no significant impact associated with reimbursement rate to home health providers.  Stakeholders suggest that there will be a significant impact associated and that CMS underestimated the costs associated with the rule.

Deadline: Advocacy is encouraging interested parties to comment on the rule especially with regards to the cost impacts associated with rebasing adjustments for home health agencies.  Comments due on August 26, 2013. 

Advocacy contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Linwood Rayford

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Advocacy’s RFA Training Program Teaches Federal Agencies How To Consider Small Business Impact

July 18th, 2013 · Comments Off

“Significant” and “substantial.” These two concepts are at the heart of the Office of Advocacy’s training on the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The RFA requires federal rulemaking agencies to consider small business impacts when they write new rules. But doing so is a many-step process requiring legal and economic expertise. To be sure agencies are properly equipped to implement the RFA, Executive Order 13272 directed the Office of Advocacy to offer training to rulemaking agencies.

Most recently, Assistant Chief Counsel Bruce Lundegren conducted RFA training for Congressional staff and federal agency personnel as part of Regulation University, a program of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “The goal of training,” Lundegren explained, “is to ensure that federal rule writers understand the RFA and tailor their rules so as not to unnecessarily burden small entities.” But how do you do this in practice? By applying this key concept: If a rule is expected to impose a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, an agency must consider alternatives, or flexibilities.

How does this work in practice? For example, in 2011, after hearing from small business, the Department of Education made changes to its gainful employment regulations, providing flexibility to educational programs with under $7 million in revenues. The changes saved small programs approximately $218 million.

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Small Business Lending Continued to Improve in First Quarter 2013

July 12th, 2013 · 2 Comments

The Office of Advocacy’s Quarterly Lending Bulletin for the first quarter of 2013 suggests that while the total amount of small business lending is not yet on the rise, the overall picture is improving. The total amount was down slightly, by 0.3 percent for the quarter, but small commercial and industrial loans continued moderate growth. (See chart 1.)

Small Business Loan Growth

In addition, the value of loans under $100,000 increased by 1.6 percent, building on the previous quarter’s slight uptick of 0.2 percent. Bankers reported stronger demand for small business loans and eased lending policies for business loans for the quarter.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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Advocacy Seeks New Small Business Research

July 11th, 2013 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy sponsors research documenting the status of small businesses and the impact of important trends. To this end, the office has just announced nine requests for quotations (RFQs) for small business research. The research areas are listed below; they are selected because they are researchable, show the status or role of small businesses, can be a catalyst for further research, or may provide policymaking insight. The proposal solicitations and synopses are listed on FedBizOpps. (If this link is not active, go to www.fedbizopps.gov and search for “Small Business Administration” listings.)

The deadline for submitting proposals is Friday, August 2, 2013, at 3pm Eastern Daylight Time.*

[Read more →]

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Department of Interior Proposes to Exclude Fish and Wildlife Service from NEPA Requirements for Lacey Act Listings

July 3rd, 2013 · Comments Off

On July 1 the Department of the Interior published a notice announcing a proposed categorical exclusion from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The exclusion would allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to add species to the list of injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act without preparing an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement.  Species listed under the Lacey Act are prohibited from being imported into the U.S. or transported across state lines. Comments are due by July 31, 2013.

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Access Board Releases Proposed Guidelines for Passenger Vessels

June 26th, 2013 · Comments Off

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (also known as the Access Board) has released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. (The Access Board is an independent federal agency of devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities.) Developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the guidelines provide design criteria for newly constructed or newly altered large vessels to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities.  As proposed, the guidelines would apply to cruise ships and other vessels that carry over 150 passengers or at least 50 overnight passengers.  They also cover ferries designed to carry 100 or more passengers and tenders allowed to carry 60 or more passengers.  The Access Board is not proposing requirements for smaller vessels due to design challenges, space constraints, and other factors.  It is also holding a hearing on the proposed guidelines on July 10, 2013, from 9:30 a.m. to moon at the Access Board Conference Room, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004. Members of the public may participate in person, call-in testimony, or listen in to the hearing.  Comments on the proposed guidelines are due September 12, 2013.

To learn more:

  • Link to the proposed guidelines on regulations.gov.
  • Read Advocacy’s comment letter on the Access Board’s 2006 guidelines.
  • Advocacy contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Janis Reyes, or call at (202) 619-0312.
  • Visit Regulations.gov, the federal government’s one-stop site to comment on federal regulations.
  • For further information on the public hearing, contact Paul Beatty, (202) 272-0012 (v), or (202) 272-0072 (TTY).

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EPA Seeks Small Entity Representatives for a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel

June 25th, 2013 · Comments Off

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting small businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations to participate as Small Entity Representatives (SERs) for a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel. This panel will focus on the agency’s review of its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for municipal solid waste landfills. EPA seeks self-nominations directly from the small entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Small private landfills are those with revenues of $35.5 million or less and small government-owned landfills serve populations of 50,000 people or less. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs. Self-nominations are requested by July 5, 2013.

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Regulatory Alert: EPA Proposes New Steam Electric Effluent Guidelines; Comment Period Extended

June 20th, 2013 · 1 Comment

On June 7, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed revisions to its Steam Electric Power Generating effluent guidelines and standards (40 CFR Part 423). The guidelines were first published in 1974, and amended in 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982. The regulation covers wastewater discharges from power plants operating as utilities. The Steam Electric effluent guidelines and standards are incorporated into NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits for plants that discharge into waters of the United States. This rulemaking will affect small independently owned utilities, small rural electric cooperative owned utilities, and small municipal owned utilities.

EPA will also conduct a public hearing on the proposed pretreatment standards on July 9, 2013, at 1 p.m. in the EPA East Building, Room 1153, 1201 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. EPA has announced an extension of the public comment period to September 20, 2013.

To submit comments:

To learn more:

  • Contact the Office of Advocacy’s Assistant Chief Counsel Kevin Bromberg, 202-205-6964.

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy

From the Drawing Board to the Marketplace in 6 Months

June 12th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Have a skill and an idea to start a business?  If you are in Spokane, Washington, you are in luck.  The Avista Center for Entrepreneurship can help you launch your business in 6 months!

The Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network began when Avista, the energy provider for the inland Pacific Northwest, gave Spokane Community College funds to develop an entrepreneurship curriculum. The program prepares participants to start their own businesses.  The sixth class will be completing the program this month. It has been so successful that two more centers will be opening in the region this fall.  Their approach has even been adapted for students at Spokane Valley Technical High School.

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Crowdfunding Rules in Process: Shaping a New Era in Early-stage Equity Financing

June 10th, 2013 · Comments Off

A recent Advocacy study found that new high-tech businesses depend more than other firms on formal financing from outside sources. High-tech firms that rely on patents, copyrights, and trademarks face bank financing hurdles, the report said, partly because their products depend on knowledge assets, which are harder for banks to assess than physical assets.

Recently, I got a call from a California small business owner about the study. “You are so right!” the caller said. “I have a high-tech business that has been exporting for seven years, and profitable for the last four or five. But I’m losing money because I can’t get financing without bricks and mortar collateral.”

It was an interesting day to hear his story, having just come from a half-day conference on “Innovation Policy and the Economy” sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research. At the conference, economist Ajay Agrawal spoke about the perils and promise of crowdfunding—an innovative approach to the exact kind of financing problem my caller was experiencing.

Agrawal told the story of Eric Migicovsky, the inventor of the Pebble watch, designed to allow users to interact with their Android or IOS device through a wrist interface. Migicovsky was on a quest for equity financing, with little luck. “Despite having production experience with a previous watch he created for the Blackberry, experience raising seed capital…, and being located in a region with a high concentration of angel investors, he could not find a willing backer,” according to Agrawal.

But a new option had appeared on the horizon. New crowdfunding platforms were allowing individuals to raise funds on the Internet through donations or in return for rewards. On April 11, 2012, Migicovsky launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $100,000 so he could begin a small production run of his prototype Pebble. He promised contributors a watch for every $120 they pledged. In two hours, Migicovsky had the $100,000 in pledges—and by the time he closed his campaign 37 days later, he had raised more than $10 million from 68,929 people.

It was the dawn of a new day in financing.

Or so it seemed. Now it was time to produce—85,000 watches, which Migicovsky had promised by September. The response had been so overwhelming that there were no watches in September—or for Christmas either. The first shipment was in January, and in April 2013, Migicovsky completed his crowdfunded orders.

Agrawal points out that traditional early-stage financing is usually highly localized for understandable reasons—those considering significant investments in a new venture need to know as much as they can about the product and its inventor. Crowdfunding, with its low transaction costs, is able to connect a project with multiple funders with the highest willingness to pay. On the downside, the investors’ lack of first-hand knowledge of the inventor and the project carries with it significant potential for fraud, inability to meet demand, or incompetence.     

Around the time that Migicovsky was launching his crowdfunding venture, President Obama signed the JOBS Act, which will legalize crowdfunding in exchange for equity, once the Securities and Exchange Commission implements final crowdfunding regulations. Those rules are currently under development.

According to Agrawal, the jury is still out on the future of crowdfunding as a viable source of early-stage financing. In the popular press, he says, the early reviews ranged from skepticism to excitement. “Crowdfunding could become an efficient, online means for defrauding the investing public,” said one Wired columnist. Meanwhile, the New York Times was far more sanguine: “Unlike exotic derivatives and super-fast trading algorithms, crowdfunding generates capital for job-creating small businesses.”

It’s one of many arenas in which a great deal rides on how the regulations are shaped.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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Innovation, Bioscience and Development Thrive in America’s Heartland

May 30th, 2013 · Comments Off

In April, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant and I, Region VII Advocate Becky Greenwald, toured three Midwestern hubs of innovation and learning—Ames, Iowa, and Maryville and St. Louis, Missouri. Our adventure through America’s heartland introduced us to cutting-edge research and valuable public-private partnerships. It also gave us the opportunity to listen to and hear from America’s researchers and entrepreneurs. By the fourth day, we left knowing Iowa and Missouri will be home to the innovations of tomorrow.

Ames is home to Iowa State University and anchors the northern end of the emerging Iowa innovation and bioeconomy corridor (between Ames and Des Moines). Dr. Sargeant and I, both proud ISU graduates, were joined by Alex Lynch from Senator Tom Harkin’s Des Moines office and Jeremy Davis from Congressman Steve King’s Ames office. We toured two relatively young programs on the campus of this 155-year-old land grant university, the Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC) and the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBIRC).

VRAC is an interdisciplinary research center studying how to use the rapidly expanding interface between humans and computers to tackle complex problems. It is one of only two such centers in the world (the second is in Saudi Arabia). VRAC Director Dr. Jim Oliver took us on a virtual tour of the human body using BodyViz, a software he co-created with Dr. Eliot Winer. The experience was a stunning display of its immense potential to visualize digital images in three dimensions.

Our next stop, ISU’s Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, took us to a facility dedicated to weaning industrial chemical production from its petroleum base to a renewable-resource-based industry. Dr. Peter Keeling, Director of the industrial collaboration and innovation program, briefed us on Iowa’s role as the epicenter for biorenewable research in the U.S. CBIRC is working with 29 industry partners, ranging in size from one-person startups to the global agricultural chemical giant, BASF. So far, five startups have been launched from CBIRC research.

We learned about the broader landscape of challenges facing cutting-edge researchers at a roundtable at ISU’s Research Park, organized by Director Steve Carter. Leaders of five companies, plus service providers with the Pappajohn Small Business Development Center participated in a discussion that touched on patent trolls and/or opportunistic patent enforcement, startup visas, and financial issues ranging from bonded debt, to the tax implications of the LLC structure, to crowdfunding.

Some of the participants at the roundtable of company leaders at ISU’s Research Park.

Pictured: Dr. Sargeant along with some of the participants at the roundtable of company leaders at ISU’s Research Park.

Capping the ISU visit were a meeting with Miles Lackey, chief of staff to ISU President Steven Leath, and a stop at the new ISU Alumni Center, and a meeting with Alumni Association President and CEO Jeffrey Johnson.

While in Ames, we also visited PowerFilm, Inc., founded in 1988 by Dr. Frank Jeffrey and Dr. Derrick Grimmer, former 3M research physicists. PowerFilm is a leading developer and manufacturer of thin, flexible solar modules. These fabric solar panels can be found on top of U.S. military tents, backpacks, or even golf carts to charge electronic devices. After a discussion with seven of PowerFilm’s leaders, Dr. Jeffrey led a tour of their advanced manufacturing facility. Employing 75 Iowans, PowerFilm, as Dr. Sargeant noted, is doing its part to stem Iowa’s brain drain by providing advanced manufacturing jobs in the center of the state.

Dr. Sargeant and PowerFilm Solar cofounder and CEO, Dr. Frank Jeffrey.

Pictured: Dr. Sargeant and PowerFilm Solar cofounder and CEO, Dr. Frank Jeffrey.

Dr. Sargeant was called to Washington, D.C., to testify before the Senate Small Business Committee and I traveled on to Maryville, Missouri, home of Northwest Missouri State University and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). CIE Director Larry Lee introduced me to two of the center’s startups. One of them, ChloroFill LLC, produces formaldehyde-free building materials using sorghum stalks instead of wood. After talking with Lou Hess, ChloroFill’s COO and former IKEA Europe executive, it is easy to understand why he and area sorghum producers are excited about the win-win prospect of ramping up sorghum production. The other startup, BlurPort LLC, founded by 17-year-old college sophomore Aakash Patel, has developed a portable way to secure electronic data storage devices. Mr. Patel, is enrolled in the two-year Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Computing, an early admission program for exceptional high school students that lets them live on the Northwest Missouri State University campus, pursue a course of study with university faculty and simultaneously earn an associate of science degree and a high school diploma.

Northwest Missouri State’s CIE Analytical Laboratory is part of a beautiful $24 million facility filled with more than $4 million worth of state-of-the-art instrumentation, which is a core resource in the university’s degree program in nanoscale science. The lab operates under the watchful eye of CIE’s professional analytical chemist, Dr. Abdul Mottaleb, whose background includes regulatory EPA and non-regulatory lab experience.

CIE’s advanced instrumentation sets it apart. As I surveyed the sophisticated equipment, I was thinking: Wow, for a school this size, Northwest students must have access to more technical resources on a per student basis than other schools. University President John Janiski confirmed my suspicion. If you divide the maximum magnification power of CIE’s field emission scanning electron microscope—1 million—by the number of students—6,800—you see that Northwest Missouri State University is the number one campus in the U.S for magnification per student. That’s a standout statistic! Can anyone out there beat that?

At the CIE (from left): Lou Hess, COO of ChloroFill, LLC; Aakash Patel, founder of BlurPort, LLC; and CIE Director Larry Lee.

Pictured: At the CIE (from left): Lou Hess, COO of ChloroFill, LLC; Aakash Patel, founder of BlurPort, LLC; and CIE Director Larry Lee.

Dr. Sargeant returned from Capitol Hill and rejoined me in St. Louis. Along with Lou Aboussie from Representative Lacy Clay Jr.’s office we talked with Robert Boyle, CEO of Justine Petersen, Inc., a leading St. Louis micro-lender, about their business model and recent expansion to the Kansas City region.

Two roundtables were held at the Center for Emerging Technologies (CET). CET is a key member of a St. Louis public-private-university partnership focused on creating all elements needed to commercialize innovations, growing a competitive life science industry cluster, and being a leading center of tech-based economic development. CET’s VP of Enterprise Development, Barbara Enneking, and Marcia Mellitz of Bioscience Strategies pulled together the roundtable participants including 18 community and business leaders. Joeana Middleton of Senator Claire McCaskill’s staff, Lou Aboussie with Representative Clay’s office, and St. Louis SBA District Director Dennis Melton joined Dr. Sargeant and me as we heard and discussed pressing issues involving federal programs, regulations, and the Affordable Care Act.

St. Louis CET post-roundtable farewells with SBA St. Louis District Director Dennis Melton, CET Director of Operations Heather Beaven, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, CET V.P. Barb Enneking, Coro Fellow Mandela Byan, and BioSTL Program Director Ben Johnson.

Pictured: St. Louis CET post-roundtable farewells with SBA St. Louis District Director Dennis Melton, CET Director of Operations Heather Beaven, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, CET V.P. Barb Enneking, Coro Fellow Mandela Byam, and BioSTL Program Director Ben Johnson.

The week wrapped with a visit to the BioGenerator Accelerator Labs guided by BioGenerator President Eric Gulve. This St. Louis innovation center provides shared and private lab and office spaces along with significant lab equipment for medicinal chemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry. Its facilities let researchers and entrepreneurs establish operations and initiate proof of concept studies without having to purchase equipment and rent lab space.

Four non-stop days of listening and discussing innovation and business growth in three Midwestern areas yielded one common theme: creativity and innovation are thriving in America’s Heartland. The challenge is making sure those businesses who are ready and willing to scale can make it happen.

—Becky Greenwald, Region VII Advocate

Becky Greenwald is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. She can be reached at rebecca.greenwald@sba.gov.

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Request for Information Issued by GSA Joint Working Group on Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience through Acquisition

May 15th, 2013 · Comments Off

On February 12, President Obama issued the Executive Order for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (E.O. 13636). In accordance with Section 8(e) of E.O. 13636, within 120 days, the General Services Administration and the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council, are required to make recommendations on the feasibility, security benefits, and relative merits of incorporating security standards into acquisition planning and contract administration and address what steps can be taken to harmonize, and make consistent, existing procurement requirements related to cybersecurity.

Public outreach is a critically important activity for implementation of the Executive Order. In an effort to obtain broad stakeholder involvement, the General Services Administration and the Department of Defense are publishing this request for information (RFI) seeking information that can be used in the Section 8(e) report.

Below are a few of the 37 questions this information notice is seeking public input. Please see the entire notice on the Federal Register.

For example:

1. What is the most feasible method to incorporate cybersecurity-relevant standards in acquisition planning and contract administration? What are the cost and other resource implications for the federal acquisition system stakeholders?

2. How can the federal acquisition system, given its inherent constraints and the current fiscal realities, best use incentives to increase cybersecurity amongst federal contractors and suppliers at all tiers? How can this be accomplished while minimizing barriers to entry to the federal market?

3. What are the implications of imposing a set of cybersecurity baseline standards and implementing an associated accreditation program?

4. How can cybersecurity be improved using standards in acquisition planning and contract administration?

Dates: Effective date: Submit comments on or before June 12, 2013.

Comments: Submit comments in response to Notice-OERR-2013-01 by any of the following methods:

Regulations.gov: Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking portal by searching for “Notice-OERR-2013-01”. Select the link “Submit a Comment” that corresponds with “Notice-OERR-2013-01”. Follow the instructions provided at the “Submit a Comment” screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “Notice-OERR-2013-01” on your attached document.

•Mail: General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat (MVCB), ATTN: Hada Flowers, 1275 First Street NE., 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20417.

Instructions: Please submit comments only and cite “Notice-OERR-2013-01”, in all correspondence related to this case. All comments received will be posted without change to Regulations.gov, including any personal and/or business confidential information provided.

Advocacy contact:
    Assistant Chief Counsel Major Clark, III
    Telephone 202-205-7150

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Departments of Homeland Security and Labor Issue Rule on Wage Methodology for H-2B Visa Workers, Effective Immediately

May 2nd, 2013 · Comments Off

On April 24, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) released an interim final rule (IFR) amending the methodology for calculating the prevailing wages to be paid to H-2B workers and U.S. workers recruited under this visa program.  The H-2B visa program allows U.S. seasonal employers to hire temporary foreign non-agricultural workers.  The Wage Methodology IFR eliminates the use of four-tier wage rates based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey and replaces them with the OES arithmetic mean. The Wage Methodology IFR continues to set the prevailing wage based on the applicable collective bargaining agreement wage rates, or, at the employer’s request, the Service Contract Act or Davis-Bacon Act wage determinations, or appropriate private wage surveys.  DOL and DHS are jointly issuing this rule in response to the court’s order in Comite´ de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas v. Solis, which vacated portions of DOL’s previous H-2B wage rule. This interim final rule is effective April 24, 2013. Interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this interim final rule on or before June 10, 2013.

•   Link to the Interim Final Rule

•   Submit Comments on the Final Rule

•   Frequently Asked Questions from DOL

•   Latest Information from DHS/USCIS

•   Advocacy contact Janis Reyes or call 202-619-0312

•   Visit Regulations.gov, the federal government’s one stop site to comment on federal regulations

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Gatorade, Football, and a Goldmine for the University of Florida

April 24th, 2013 · 2 Comments

University of Florida Century Tower

While it’s not common knowledge, Gainesville, Florida, has exported some pretty valuable commodities to the rest of the world. While Tom Petty, of Heartbreakers fame, may be flashier, no less valuable is Gatorade. The granddaddy of sports drinks is also a poster child for successful university research commercialization.

Dr. Robert Cade and several researchers on staff at the University of Florida in Gainesville developed the sucrose-dextrose drink, Gatorade, in the 1960s; their novel formula replenished the combination of water, carbohydrates, and electrolytes that athletes lose in sweat during rigorous athletic competitions. Ray Graves, then coach of the football team, requested that Dr. Cade provide the drink mix to his players. The drink was tested in football practice and later used extensively by the Gators during the 1966 season, one in which the team enjoyed one of its best records in history, 9-2, capped by a victory in the Orange Bowl over Georgia Tech. Coach Graves credited Gatorade for enabling his players to finish much stronger in the fourth quarter of that game. Gatorade was the beginning of a slew of innovative products spun out of university research that has enabled UF to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties through its Office of Technology Licensing, led by David Day, Assistant Vice President & Director, and Jane Muir, Associate Director.

On March 14, I attended “A Celebration of Innovation” in Gainesville. This event is an annual conference and over 300 startup entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, academicians, and media were treated to presentations by approximately 15 emerging companies birthed at the university’s Innovation Hub and the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator. Dr. Bernie Machen, president of the University of Florida, welcomed the attendees and offered  introductory remarks. He highlighted the growth of several early-stage spinoffs including Axogen, a medical device company that has developed new ways to regenerate tissue growth by using tissues from cadavers, and Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation, Inc., a company that is developing its proprietary adenovirus manufacturing platform for the treatment of two eye conditions: achromatopsia and X-linked retinoschisis.

Dr. Win Phillips, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the University’s Office of Research, followed Dr. Machen’s remarks by relating some facts about the University’s Office of Technology Licensing and the city of Gainesville:

  • Four Gainesville entrepreneurs were honored by the White House last year as “Top 100 Entrepreneurs under 30.”
  • MindTree, a software development company that recently relocated to Gainesville announced a new center in Innovation Square and currently employs 80 of an expected 400 employees.
  • Creative Class author Richard Florida has singled out Gainesville as a leading community for the growth of high-tech jobs.
  • UF receives more than 300 invention disclosures annually.
  • In 2012, UF executed 79 licenses and options and helped start 15 new companies.
  • More than $335 million in tech transfer revenue has been generated in the past decade.

The conference concluded with the 15 entrepreneurs giving presentations of their companies to prospective funders and other interested individuals. It was my observation that innovation is alive and well in Gainesville and the University of Florida, and I anxiously await the next exciting startup to emerge from the Office of Technology Transfer. Speaking as a Gator alum, I selfishly hope that this one will benefit the Florida basketball team in the hope that they can make it to the Final Four again.

—Mark Berson, Region IV Advocate

Mark Berson is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  He can be reached at mark.berson@sba.gov.

→ 2 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Advocacy Attorneys Attend ABA Regulatory Institute

April 22nd, 2013 · 18 Comments

On April 3-4, 2013, the attorneys from the Office of Advocacy attended the American Bar Association’s 9th Annual Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Institute: Critical Issues in Regulation. The institute deals primarily with administrative law, which covers the things that agencies do to implement laws or make regulations. The institute provides attorneys with an opportunity to learn about the relevant issues of the day and network with their peers. Advocacy’s participation in this conference keeps staff attorneys aware of the latest regulatory law developments that may have ramifications for small businesses.

The first day consisted of an update on the rulemaking process and judicial review of rules. The second day covered some of the hot topics in administrative law, such as extending the authority of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to review independent agencies, recess appointments, public-private governance, and technology in rulemaking. It was an extremely informative two days for anyone interested in learning about administrative law from the leading experts in the field.

—Jennifer Smith, Assistant Chief Counsel

→ 18 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

Engaging Pittsburgh and Its Expanding Innovation Economy

April 17th, 2013 · 4 Comments

On March 12 and 13, the Office of Advocacy rolled out the next installment in its national conversation on innovation and entrepreneurship. This extended dialog took place at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Business School in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. The event continued Advocacy’s listening initiative, “Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation,” launched in Seattle in September 2012.

Pittsburgh is located at the confluence of three great rivers, and was known historically as an industrial center and transportation hub. Steel and railroads defined its economic role in the 20th century. Today, the city is positioned at the “confluence” of important education, research and health care networks, and has emerged as the hub of the regional innovation economy. Despite the economic challenges of the 2000s, Pittsburgh is the focus of new ventures and investor optimism.

Participants came from every angle, including the city’s premier institutions of learning: Carnegie Mellon University, a world leader in robotics and computer science research, and the University of Pittsburgh, which excels in life sciences, biotech, and several other technology disciplines. Also represented were 21 organizations and companies that support innovation in diverse and novel ways: incubating, accelerating, and commercializing ideas by identifying and channeling economic development dollars, creating collaborative work environments, and other key functions. These support platforms include StartUptown, Innovation Works/AlphaLab, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse, Idea Foundry, Pennsylvania Nanomaterials Commercialization Center, Urban Innovation21, CEED, and Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.  

In 10 sessions over two days, entrepreneurship and innovation leaders from key industry sectors came together to identify key barriers, big ideas, and best practices that can have positive and significant industry-impacting results through public/private partnerships.

Each session featured an ecosystem of the interdependent aspects of each sector. These discussions were robust and lively, engaging the expert panelists and the 350 attendees. I’ve mentioned one or two of each sessions’ key points to merely hint at the direction of these amazing exchanges.

The Life Sciences session identified important sector-enabling ideas including the need for government to robustly fund organizations that help entrepreneurs take costly scientific discovery to the commercialization stage.

 Life Sciences Roundtable

The Life Sciences Session.

The Healthcare session cited the need for more large-scale government-run investigative projects, exemplified by the collaboration between the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and Department of Energy (DOE) to build on the results of the landmark Human Genome Project. Healthcare breakthroughs are highly investment-intensive, requiring commitments and funding on a scale that only government can provide.

The Energy session provided several inputs, especially the need for a stable and comprehensive 10-year federal policy to eliminate uncertainty in the industry.

The Young Entrepreneurs session featured a diverse ecosystem that included high school age entrepreneurs and innovators. Two of this group’s key messages were the need for student loan deferment for entrepreneurs who meet a predetermined set of criteria and faster implementation of the equity-based crowdfunding authorized in the JOBS Act. Crowdfunding offers a potential solution to the challenges young entrepreneurs face in accessing capital in the early stages of their enterprises.

The ecosystem of Advanced Materials, a sector focused on cutting-edge innovation in nanomaterials, chemistry, and material science, spans research and ideation to commercialization. The group discussed and identified roadblocks including the intermediate fundraising phase of a company’s lifecycle. Many later-stage companies are challenged to secure funding for assets and resort to sourcing funding in regions outside the United States.

A key issue identified in the High Technology and Innovation session was the need to extend technology translational capital (which typically goes from government to universities) to non-university-based technology incubators and accelerators that are key to commercialization efforts.

The Manufacturing session identified the sector’s talent gap as the most critical issue. They would like to see the government put more emphasis on talent recruitment for manufacturing jobs as part of its emphasis on STEM. They suggested a variation on that acronym—STEAM—where the A stands for “advanced manufacturing.”

The Women and Minority Entrepreneurship session highlighted the need for targeted mentoring and coaching on the government contract bidding process, with the aim of increasing the success rate from the current 3 percent level to the 5 percent goal.

The two final panels, Information Technology/Urban Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship, are two emerging sectors that Pittsburghers say involve a very diverse ecosystem and have the unique potential to provide a far-reaching boost to specific components of the innovation economy in Pittsburgh and the wider region. The Urban Entrepreneurship session suggested that one of the region’s tax incentive best practices be extended to the national level. Pittsburgh’s targeted eight-year state tax incentive program has proven effective at encouraging high-growth companies to locate in low-income communities. The presence of these new businesses has stimulated the growth of support enterprises around them, and the communities have provided a percentage of the local workforce.

In the Social Entrepreneurship session, participants agreed that they would like social enterprises that combine profitability with their social goal to receive the same corporate classifications as for-profit corporations and hence access existing benefits for small businesses. They also suggested that the SBA’s Impact Investment fund that already has a CleanTech focus set aside a percent of funds for social enterprises that meet set criteria.

Lots of positive feedback has followed the event. Pittsburghers in the innovation circle appreciated the ecosystem approach and the holistic and robust discussion it facilitated in each sector. By introducing players in diverse sectors to each other and promoting a lively interaction, the event is another element feeding and expanding the collaborative process that characterizes innovation in Pittsburgh today.

—Ngozi Bell, Region III Advocate

Ngozi Bell is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. She can be reached at ngozi.bell@sba.gov.

StartUptown

 StartUptown (above) and Techshop (below) are two Pittsburgh business incubators.

 Techshop

→ 4 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Entrepreneurial Energy and Crazy Ideas Abound at NOEW 2013

April 1st, 2013 · 4 Comments

Dreams came true this entrepreneurial season as New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) drew to a close last Friday.  To the winners went the spoils—over $200,000 in cash prizes to local start-ups with the best ideas and business pitch. This year’s NOEW was abuzz with activity, engaging more than 3,000 individuals in small business dialogue, including numerous entrepreneurs who competed on eight stages for cash prizes and technical assistance—all focused on helping to strengthen locally based businesses.

NOEW, an annual spring event, is the culmination of the Idea Village’s annual entrepreneur season which starts the previous July; the event allocates over $2.5 million in capital and strategic consulting resources to hundreds of local entrepreneurs through numerous events and outreach sessions. At the heart of NOEW is the IDEAcorps which is a team of seven MBA programs (Tulane, Loyola, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Cornell, and Dartmouth) that descend upon NOLA every spring break to provide free technical assistance to the entrepreneurs in the Idea Village network. Local entrepreneurs receive a solid week of one-on-one assistance from MBA students who also help prepare the entrepreneurs to compete at NOEW for additional capital and technical assistance resources. 

The final NOEW pitch on Fulton Street.

The final NOEW pitch on Fulton Street.

  The apex of the entrepreneurial celebration and the end of the NOEW season takes place on Friday night on Fulton Street. Thousands of locals gather together to root for 15 entrepreneurs who compete to become one of three finalists who pitch for a chance to win $50,000 in cash prizes awarded by a celebrity panel. This year’s panel included political strategist Mary Matalin, actor Wendell Pierce, billionaire investor Jim Coulter and Archie Manning, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback.

The roar of the crowd produced a tie for first place: Lorenzo Castillo, owner of Education Everytime, a music curriculum business that enhances student engagement and school efficiencies; and Erik Frank, owner of Your Nutrition Delivered, a delivery service for organic pre-cooked meals. The third entrepreneur pitching on the Fulton Street stage was Webster Pierce, owner of WaveRobber, a porous plastic structure that gathers and distributes sediment (from wave action)  to rebuild wetlands. Pierce finished as a runner-up, but he did not leave NOEW empty-handed, having won the $50,000 Water Challenge earlier in the week. He now joins other visionary Water Challenge winners, NanoFex (an environmental technology firm) and Tierra Resources (a carbon offsetting company).

The Office of Advocacy was also featured prominently in NOEW. Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant participated as a panelist as part of the Water Challenge—a day that focused on fostering public-private dialogue on integrated water management issues and innovation around water-related technologies.  Dr. Sargeant joined four other notable panelists from Coca Cola, Tulane University, Nunez Community College, and NanoFex to dialogue about ways to grow and strengthen New Orleans’ water-based economy. Panelists discussed issues stretching from streamlining federal assistance programs for funding efficiency to helping small entrepreneurs connect with larger corporations to solve complex water-related challenges.

Dr. Winslow Sargeant participates on a panel dialogue discussing entrepreneurship,  innovation and integrated water management as part of this year’s NOEW.

Dr. Winslow Sargeant participates on a panel dialogue discussing entrepreneurship, innovation and integrated water management as part of this year’s NOEW.

 

Webster Pierce (right) wins this year’s  Water Challenge business competition and is joined by past winners, Sara Mack of Tierra Resources (middle) and David Culpepper of NanoFex.

Webster Pierce (right) wins this year’s Water Challenge business competition and is joined by past winners, Sara Mack of Tierra Resources (middle) and David Culpepper of NanoFex.

In addition to the Water Challenge, NOEW also featured some outstanding panel dialogues and pre-eminent speakers including Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, and Tina Wells, CEO and Founder of Buzz Marketing Group. Many of the NOEW speakers shared a similar mindset and opined about the importance of sustaining momentum through constant re-invention and living (not just thinking) outside the box. Both speakers stressed that creativity and an independent mind set are key to entrepreneurial success and that no other city reflects this so naturally as New Orleans.  

Another less cerebral but equally important dialogue enjoyed by many was one entitled “Failure Fest,” where a panel of young and old entrepreneurs gathered together to discuss their best and worst failures. One (older) panelist, a prominent architecture and engineering businessman, noted that his greatest failure is ongoing—a struggle of not having and/or planning for diverse executive leadership. This entrepreneur emphasized the need to embrace all manners of diversity at an earlier business stage, citing that his inability to do so may ultimately undermine the firm’s long-term viability.

Interestingly, the same theme of diversity and social inclusion echoed throughout various sessions, including a mayoral dialogue on sustaining the larger regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some participants noted that more active engagement is needed to ensure that the entrepreneurial movement is as inclusive and diverse as possible. The local chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) also recognized this challenge and as part of this year’s NOEW, they along with co-host sponsors, decided to tackle the diversity debate by launching a panel discussion entitled “Louisiana’s Got Talent: A Bridge to Business Growth” which focused on fostering a cultural mindset of doing more business with small diverse, local businesses. Perhaps next year’s NOEW will actively accelerate this nascent movement by doing what it does best—connecting a diverse array of entrepreneurs, and the network that supports them, to dialogue and problem solve about the opportunities and challenges of sustaining an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Tim Williamson, co-founder of the Idea Village, will tell you that the Idea Village and, by extension NOEW, were formed on the back of a napkin (in a bar) in response to a parochial leadership mindset that feared failure. To this day, that same napkin is now framed, hanging on a wall that boasts news articles about the robustness of the New Orleans entrepreneurial economy (which is 40 percent above the national average).

Rather than fear failure, local entrepreneurs, and a diverse array of organizations supporting them, opted for re-invention. These collective efforts helped redefine New Orleans as the “Coolest Startup City in America” (so named by Inc.com), where with each entrepreneurial season crazy ideas are championed, solutions to real problems are discovered and businesses are launched.  I’m already looking forward to next season.”

—Caitlin Cain, Region VI Advocate

Caitlin Cain is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate  for Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. She can be reached at caitlin.cain@sba.gov.

 

→ 4 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Critical Habitat Designation for Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Opens 60-Day Comment Period

March 27th, 2013 · Comments Off

On March 25, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate critical habitat for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Distinct Population Segment of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed critical habitat is located in coastal counties in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by May 24, 2013.

  • The proposed rule from in the Federal Register, March 25, 2013.
  • To submit comments on this proposal, visit Regulations.gov.
  • Advocacy’s contact on this issue is Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis, (202) 205-6936.

For more information on Regulatory Alerts, visit the Office of Advocacy’s webpage.  

3-26-13 Female_Loggerhead_Sea_Turtle

Female loggerhead sea turtle at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Library.

 

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Comment Period To Review Status of the West Coast Fisher Population

March 20th, 2013 · 1 Comment

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the opening of an information gathering period regarding the status of the fisher (Martes pennanti) throughout the range of its West Coast distinct population segment (DPS) in the United States. The status review will be used in determining whether the West Coast DPS of the fisher warrants listing it as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Comments are due by May 3, 2013.

•           Proposed Rule from the Federal Register.
•           Submit Comments  on this request on Regulations.gov.
•           Advocacy contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis, (202) 205-6936.

 Visit Advocacy’s website for more information on Regulatory Alerts.

 Fisher (Martes pennanti).

The fisher (Martes pennant) is a small mammal that lives in forested habitats where prey is abundant. Its name is misleading since fishers do not actually catch fish. © Getty Images.

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy

New Employment Eligibility Form Should Reduce Errors, Provide Clarity

March 13th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Earlier this month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new employment eligibility verification form (Form I-9), now available for immediate use by employers. Employers who need to make necessary updates to prepare for the new Form I-9 may continue to use other previously accepted revisions (Rev.02/02/09)N and (Rev. 08/07/09)Y until May 7, 2013. After this date, all employers must use the revised Form I-9 for each new employee hired in the United States.

The revised Form I-9 has several new features, including new fields and a new format to reduce errors. The instructions also more clearly describe the information employees and employers must provide in each section. 

English and Spanish versions of the new form are available online at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.

For more information, please call (888) 464-4218 or visit I-9 Central online. 

To order forms, call USCIS toll-free at (800) 870-3673. For downloadable forms and information on immigration laws as well as USCIS programs, regulations and procedures, please visit www.uscis.gov.

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy

Missoula Chamber Meeting Considers State of Small Business in Montana

March 12th, 2013 · Comments Off

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the annual State of Missoula Commerce Report hosted by the Missoula Chamber of Commerce. The event, called “The Impacts of Small Business: A National, Regional and Local Perspective,” focused on small business health in Missoula, Montana’s second largest city, as well as the rest of the state. One highlight was a resource fair showcasing federal, state, and private services, as well as tools available to small businesses throughout the city and state. 

The list of participants included the Small Business Administration district office; the Missoula Economic Partnership, promoting business opportunities in Missoula; and the Montana Business Expansion and Retention Office, a joint partnership of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Montana Departments of Commerce and Labor, and the Montana Economic Developers Association.

As the Regional Advocate for the area, I shared the panel with Barbara Wagner, senior economist at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Research and Analysis Bureau; Michael Braun, associate professor at the University of Montana School of Business Administration and an expert on family-run enterprises; and David Glaser, a small business development expert.

Missoula Chamber event

Several hundred small business owners attended, representing a broad mix of existing small businesses and those looking to launch entrepreneurial endeavors.  Montana industry is based around agriculture, mining and lumber development. These traditional businesses—mining and drilling operations, sawmills and timber-centric enterprises, and natural gas wells—are the foundation of a new wave of businesses in the finished wood product industry and the burgeoning energy exploration field.  High-tech and service industries are also well represented in the computer support areas, human resource operations, and telecommunications and software engineering.

The event offered an incredible array of resources available to support existing small business owners and potential startups.  The SBA’s standard offerings—credit, counseling and contracting—are supplemented by municipal, state, and private resource partners offering complementary services. 

Many participants were cautious about small business growth, after surviving the trials of economic recession; but they were optimistic about opportunities despite the slow pace of economic recovery.   Small business owners have been reluctant to take on new loans for leases or equipment or even to hire new employees as demand for products and services has yet to return to pre-recession levels.  Many attendees were eager to aggressively market their products and services, demonstrating that the “wait and see” attitude may have run its course.

Much of the business growth in Montana is attributed to small business startups.  In fact, the Montana Department of Labor estimates startup companies and entrepreneurs have created more than 60,000 new jobs in Montana during the past five years despite the economic recession.  Montana has a rich history of family-run businesses and entrepreneurial self-reliance, attributed to its tight-knit communities and the downsizing of large industry to smaller economic entities.

As the event wound down and the multitude of small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs had their last words with resource partners and local officials, I was struck at the continued level of optimism and growing curiosity of small business owners who are intent on making use of the new opportunities available to them.

—by John Hart, Region VIII Advocate

John Hart  is the Office of Advocacy’s Regional Advocate for Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. He can be reached at john.hart@sba.gov.

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Advocacy Roundtable Discusses Issues with Proposed Food Safety Modernization Act Regs, Impact on Seasonal Food Importers

March 8th, 2013 · Comments Off

On January 17, 2013, the Office of Advocacy held a roundtable for small business stakeholders that gave them the opportunity to talk directly with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials about their concerns with the Food Safety Modernization Act rules, as well as FDA guidance on fees associated with the re-inspection of food facilities.

A diverse group of stakeholders participated: food importers and suppliers, produce farmers, and agents and brokers who facilitate importation of foreign food products into the United States. The discussion of potential impacts associated with the FSMA rules was enlightening for Advocacy and the FDA. In one instance, agent-brokers voiced concern with the liability they face under the new rules even when they are unsure if they have been listed as a broker of record with the FDA by a foreign food producer.

In another example, an Asian food representative asked the FDA to be more sensitive to language differences and cultural holidays that drive seasonal demand for specialized goods. As an example, a small business owner noted that a delay in the release of detained mooncakes just prior to, or during, the Harvest Moon Festival could lead to substantial financial losses since the product loses most of its value once the holiday passes.

Mooncakes

The roundtable let officials from the FDA and Advocacy understand the complexity of individual products and niche markets affected by the regulatory proposals.

— Linwood Rayford, Assistant Chief Counsel

 

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Proposed Food Safety Modernization Act Rules Open for Comment

March 7th, 2013 · Comments Off

The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law on January 4, 2011, directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to draft rules to better protect public health by helping ensure the safety and security of the U.S. food supply. The first four significant FSMA rules have either been published in the Federal Register, or will be soon. These rules include:

  • Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventative Controls for Human Food (published January 16, 2013; 78 Fed. Reg. 3646);
  • Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (published January 16, 2013; 78 Fed. Reg. 3503);
  • Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals; and
  • Accreditation of Third Parties to Conduct Food Safety Audits.

The preventative control rule has two major features. First, it contains new provisions requiring each owner, operator, or agent to comply with hazard analysis and risk-based preventative controls. Second, it would revise existing Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMPs) requirements by clarifying that certain existing CGMP provisions would also require protection against cross-contact of food by allergens. The proposed rule provides many small business exemptions. The rule takes effect 60 days after the final rule is published in the Federal Register; however, small businesses (defined as having less than 500 employees) have two additional years to comply, and very small businesses have three additional years to comply. (Three possible definitions of small businesses are proposed: entities having less than $250,000, $500,000, or $1 million in total food sales.)

In the produce rule, the FDA proposes to set standards associated with the identified routes of microbial contamination of produce, including:

  • agricultural water;
  • biological soil amendments of animal origin;
  • health and hygiene;
  • animals in the growing area; and
  • equipment, tools and buildings.

The rule would become final 60 days after final publication in the Federal Register. There are numerous small business exemptions. Small businesses (defined as entities with average annual food sales over the previous three years of no more than $500,000) would have three years to comply; very small businesses (average annual food sales over the previous three years of no more than $250,000) would have four years to comply.

The comment deadline for both rules is May 16, 2013. Submit electronic comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov.

—Linwood Rayford, Assistant Chief Counsel

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Kansas City Sets Its Sights on Becoming America’s Most Entrepreneurial City

March 1st, 2013 · Comments Off

Spend a day in the greater Kansas City area and you can’t help but catch the vibe. Kansas City is intent on transforming itself into America’s most entrepreneurial city. Kansas City is drawing from a rich entrepreneurial heritage. Names like Bloch, Kauffman, and Stowers—a past generation of entrepreneurs—grew their business fortunes here, employed thousands, and generously gave back to their community. The Bloch School of Management, The Kauffman Foundation, and Stowers Institute for Medical Research are outstanding examples of the lasting impact these early entrepreneurs made on their hometown.  

Today Kansas City is leveraging its entrepreneurial roots and focusing on ways to make the two-state greater Kansas City area “the” place to be for entrepreneurs.  An economic development shift is underway, working to attract intellectual capital and talent from other regions, so the next new “Big Thing” might call Kansas City home.  Creating an environment that makes life easier for entrepreneurs is one of the Big Five, a set of transformational initiatives espoused by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in September 2011. Each initiative is spearheaded by a champion. The guiding forces behind The Entrepreneurial City initiative are UMB Bank Chairman and CEO Peter deSilva and Cerner Corporation co-founder Cliff Illig, two area business leaders who know how to get things done.

The advent of Google Fiber is one of the exciting ways in which Kansas City has separated itself from the pack and is transforming itself into a destination for entrepreneurs.

Google must have recognized something special when the company selected Kansas City, Kansas, from over 1,100 cities vying to be the site of its Google Fiber pilot project. The project promised to equip an area with high-capacity fiber-optic cable delivering super fast connectivity, up to 1 gigabyte a second. With the Google announcement came pledges by both Kansas City governments to work with them, clearing the way—and rights of way—for laying the fiber. Sly James, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, and Joe Reardon, mayor of Kansas City and Wyandotte County, Kansas, formed the Mayors’ Bi-state Innovation Team to work together to leverage Google Fiber’s presence.

Since its selection in 2011, Kansas City’s Hanover Heights “fiberhood” is now up and running, and it is fast becoming a proving ground for new ideas and entrepreneurs.

The opportunity presented by Google Fiber got local web developer Ben Barreth thinking about how he could bring new talent to town and help grow jobs. Ben and his wife Meredith came up with the idea of Homes for Hackers (H4H), whose stated goal is “to further the business community in Kansas City by offering 3 months of rent-free, Google Fiber-connected startup space to entrepreneurs.” Ben and Meredith have now launched the first of what they hope will be many Kansas City-area houses dedicated to startups and which are fully outfitted with Google Fiber. Ben is inviting out-of-town entrepreneurs to relocate to H4H to take advantage of the fiberhood.  Selected entrepreneurs live rent-free for three months; groceries are their only expense. 

I had the good fortune to visit the State Line Road H4H with entrepreneur/resident Synthia Payne, who is the third entrepreneur to live in the house. Synthia was drawn to Kansas City from Denver and is developing her startup, Cyberjammer. I also got to meet H4H residents number 4 and 5: Nick Budidharma, from South Carolina who is perfecting his business, Leetnode, and Phil Jaycox, who moved over from St. Louis to develop  Dealivr. In addition to space for three entrepreneurs there is a fourth bedroom reserved for a short term “fiber traveler.” For a nominal rental fee, a fiber traveler can stay for a week and get a taste of the possibilities of 1 gigabyte connection speeds. 

While I was visiting the H4H,  fiber traveler Chris Baran arrived from the East Coast, anxious to get started working at high speed on his FiberRV business. These diverse startup entrepreneurs were coexisting peacefully and fruitfully, living by H4H house rules and concentrating on developing their products with the benefit of Google Fiber.

HRH is a great idea that bears replication, and already others are getting in on the idea of an ultra-high-speed home for entrepreneurs. Brad Feld, author of the book Startup Communities, has also started his own Kansas City Fiberhouse next door to H4H, and is offering residencies to selected entrepreneurs.

Who knows which next Kansas City “Big Thing” will hatch from this adventure?

—Becky Greenwald, Region 7 Advocate

Becky Greenwald is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. She can be reached at rebecca.greenwald@sba.gov

 synthia payne and google fiber bunny

Cyberjammer owner Synthia Payne and the Google Fiber Bunny logo.

Synthia Payne and Ben Barreth

H4H co-owner Ben Barreth and Synthia Payne.

H4H resident entrepreneurs

The three current H4H entrepreneur/residents Nick Budidharma, Synthia Payne, Phil Jaycox and their guest entrepreneur Chris Baran

Comments OffTags: State and Regional

RFA Compliance Saves Small Businesses $2.4 Billion in Regulatory Costs

February 27th, 2013 · Comments Off

Small businesses were spared $2.4 billion in first-year regulatory costs in FY 2012 through the Office of Advocacy’s work with federal agencies to ensure that regulations complied with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The act requires federal agencies to examine proposed regulations for their impact on small entities, and to consider alternatives that minimize the regulatory burden yet still achieve the rules’ purpose.

RFA report

These cost savings are found in the Office of Advocacy’s Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act FY 2012. The congressionally mandated report details agencies’ compliance with the RFA over the past fiscal year.

“I am proud that Advocacy is living up to its reputation as the small business watchdog within the federal government,” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, chief counsel for advocacy.  “As a former small business owner myself, I know small businesses don’t have the time or resources to keep track of all the proposed federal rules and regulations.  So, our job is to monitor that process for small businesses.  Advocacy’s guiding purpose is to work with federal agencies to get the results they want, while easing the burden of those regulations on small businesses.”

Advocacy’s Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act FY 2012, shows the office’s work helping federal agencies comply with the RFA.  In addition to regulatory review, the report summarizes agencies’ progress in complying with Executive Order 13272, which requires them to create a systematic rule review process geared toward reducing the regulatory burden.

From holding roundtable discussions around the country, to issuing comment letters on proposed regulations, to training federal agencies on RFA compliance, the report outlines Advocacy’s work voicing the concerns of small businesses throughout the federal government. 

Chart 2.1

“Small businesses deserve a voice in the regulatory process, especially when a proposed rule or regulation will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small businesses.  And, Advocacy works hard to serve as that strong voice,” said Sargeant.  “We believe—and our congressional mandate reflects this belief—that regulations are more effective and long-lasting when small businesses are part of the rulemaking process.” 

The Office of Advocacy bases its cost savings primarily on agency estimates.  These cost savings for a given rule are captured in the fiscal year in which the agency takes final action on the rule.

The full report is on the Advocacy website.  Interested small business owners can also sign up there for a number of web-based tools, such as e-mail alerts, regulatory alerts, Advocacy’s newsletter, and various social media accounts that serve to keep small business owners updated on proposed federal rules and regulations.

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Advocacy Publishes Newest State Small Business Profiles

February 14th, 2013 · Comments Off

US map puzzle

How are small businesses doing in your state? The Office of Advocacy has just published the Small Business Profiles for the States and Territories, to help answer this question. These profiles are brief two-page documents that give policymakers, small business owners, economists, and many others a detailed picture of the economic role of small businesses within their state, or the nation as a whole. They are also a useful tool to track changes and trends in each state’s small business economy.

The profiles offer a glimpse of the small business status in each state, territory, and the nation. The five states with the largest populations—California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois—account for roughly 38 percent of the total number of small employers in the country. However, the highest shares of small firm employment are found in the less populous states, the top five being Montana, with 68.4 percent of its jobs provided by small businesses; Wyoming (64.8 percent); South Dakota and North Dakota (tied at 61.9 percent); and Vermont (59.7 percent). From a finance perspective, the average number of business loans under $100,000 for the five largest states was 238,967, with a mean total value of $4.3 million.

Each individual profile contains information pertaining to the growth and decline of that region’s small business economy, comparing the most recent data available with prior years’ data. The information included in the state and U.S. profiles include total number of businesses, both small and large, business owner demographics, workforce breakdown, unemployment rate, lending, revenues, employment and employer firms by industry, net new jobs created, and establishment turnover rates. Please note that only limited data are available for the four U.S. territories.

The Office of Advocacy releases this information with the most recent available data at the time of publication, utilizing data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; Administration Office of the U.S. Courts; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; and the Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. Each profile is available in PDF format on the website, along with the raw data files.

—Shawn Fouladi, Research Assistant

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Competitive Carriers Urge the FCC to Consider New Copper Retirement Regulations

February 8th, 2013 · Comments Off

Digital map of the U.S.

On January 25, a coalition of competitive telecommunications carriers filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC propose new regulations governing the retirement of copper communications infrastructure owned by incumbent carriers. (The incumbents are the group of large telcos which resulted from the breakup of the Bell operating companies in the 1980s.) In many cases, small business consumers rely on the broadband services provided by carriers over these copper facilities, and the speed at which retirement is proceeding jeopardizes these services. Advocacy has previously submitted several public comments to the FCC forwarding the concerns of competitive carriers with regard to the effectiveness of its copper retirement regulations. The FCC is now asking the public to submit comments regarding this latest petition.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires incumbent carriers to lease access to elements of the national telephone network to competing providers at wholesale rates, so that competitors can offer consumers a choice in communications providers without a need to duplicate the copper network. In 2003, the FCC determined that these wholesale obligations apply only to the copper network, and not to fiber optic connections. As incumbent carriers move toward building fiber optic connections, they are permitted to disable their existing copper connections; however, FCC regulations govern their retirement of these copper connections, in order to protect consumer choice.

Competitive carriers have requested the FCC revisit these regulations in several instances, arguing that the copper infrastructure should not be able to be retired by incumbents as a means to avoid the requirements of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  In the January 25 petition, the competitive carriers stress that preserving their ability to offer Ethernet broadband over the copper network is essential to making high-speed broadband service affordable and widespread, as the law requires.  They suggest several changes to the FCC’s current copper retirement regulations.  Notably, they request that the rules be revised to prohibit the physical removal or disabling of copper facilities unless the FCC confirms that customers will continue to have a choice among reasonably priced, similar services and will not have service disrupted. 

The first round of public comments on the petition is due March 5 with the second round of reply comments due March 20. Comments may be submitted electronically by accessing the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System. Comments should reference and be submitted under WC Docket No. 12-353 and RM-11358.

Assistant Chief Counsel Jamie Saloom 

 

Previous Advocacy Comments on Copper Retirement

The Office of Advocacy has filed comments referencing copper retirement three times since 2007:

 

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OSHA’s Second in Command Participates in Advocacy Roundtable

January 29th, 2013 · Comments Off

On Friday, January 25, Jordan Barab, the U.S. Department of Labor’s deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, participated in the Office of Advocacy’s regular small business roundtable on labor safety and health issues. Mr. Barab focused his remarks on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) regulatory agenda for the coming year and beyond.  Mr. Barab also announced that he would be staying on at OSHA for President Obama’s second term, along with other key OSHA leaders, including Assistant Secretary David Michaels and Chief of Staff Deborah Berkowitz.

Mr. Barab laid out an ambitious agenda for the coming year which includes three Small Business Advocacy Review panels. The panels will allow small business representatives to provide input to agency officials before the rule is developed. The topics of the three panels will be Injury and Illness Prevention Plans (I2P2), Infectious Diseases, and Combustible Dust.  He also stated that OSHA planned to publish its proposed rule on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica, which has been pending under review at the Office of Management and Budget for nearly two years. Mr. Barab fielded a host of questions from attendees on such topics as OSHA enforcement policy, workplace injury and illness rates, and implementation of OSHA’s new rules on hazard communication.  It was a collegial and wide-ranging discussion.

Advocacy’s roundtable was well-attended, with nearly 100 participants from across a variety of sectors.  The roundtable meets every other month and focuses on regulatory activity by OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and other agencies.  If you would like to attend or be added to the email distribution list, please contact Assistant Chief Counsel Bruce Lundegren.

January 25 Advocacy roundtable. Photo by Kyle W. Kempf.

Advocacy January 25 roundtable on labor safety and health issues. Photo by Kyle W. Kempf.

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Regional Advocate Participates in Omaha Event Honoring Women Business Owners

January 24th, 2013 · Comments Off

In December, Region VII Advocate Becky Greenwald was a special guest speaker at the Women in Business Small Business Conference and Expo. The event was sponsored by the Nebraska Business Development Center/Procurement Technical Assistance Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Hosting the event was Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry, who recognized 12 women business owners making a difference in his district (pictured below).

Nebraska women business owners honored

Click on the photo to jump to Congressman Terry’s speech recognizing each of these business owners in the Federal Register on December 18, 2012.

Front row, from left: Connie Martin, SpecPro; Danielle Zoz, GovDirect, represented by Paige Zoz; Tracie Malesa, Du-Rite Electric; Nancy Sempek, Christensen Drywall.
Middle row: Lee Pankowski, LP Custodial Services; Tina Diaz-Ciechomski, Future Construction Specialties;  Jennifer Maassen, McCallie Associates.
Back row: BC Clark, Metro Omaha Women’s Business Center; Diane Bruce, Charv’s Contracting; Felicia Rogers, Congressman Lee Terry’s Office; Shayne Fili, Auction Solutions; and Lisa Wolford, CSSS.net, represented by an employee.
Not pictured: Julie Kaup, Boss Electric.

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Advocacy Applauds IRS Simplification of Home Office Deduction

January 16th, 2013 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy applauds yesterday’s decision by the Internal Revenue Service to offer a simplified version of the home office deduction. Advocacy has been engaged with the small business community and the IRS on this issue for decades, including a formal request to the White House in 2009. The new option allows a deduction of up to $1,500 based on a formula of $5 per square foot of home office spaced used and will take effect for the 2013 tax year. The IRS estimates that this change in the rule will reduce the paperwork burden on small businesses by 1.6 million hours annually. An estimated 14.4 million, or 52 percent of America’s 27.8 million small businesses, are home based.

“Simplifying the home office deduction for America’s small businesses has been a longstanding priority of the Office of Advocacy; we welcome the IRS’s actions,” said Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant.  “I would also like to commend the steadfast advocacy of numerous small business organizations who have championed this issue.”

Over the years, Advocacy has worked with the IRS to encourage the simplification of the home office business deduction. In 2009, Advocacy sent a letter to the Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board’s Tax Reform Subcommittee, identifying the simplification of the home office business deduction as its top recommendation and suggesting that the IRS offer a standard deduction option. Advocacy will continue to pursue straightforward solutions for small business through tax reform. 

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Deadline Extended for Small Business Research Proposals

January 9th, 2013 · Comments Off

The deadline for submitting proposals for small business research for the Office of Advocacy has been extended to February 8. The original announcement with the revised deadline follows.

The Office of Advocacy examines the role of small business in the economy and publishes research on a wide range of topics each year. These studies educate policymakers and small business advocates, and they expand knowledge of small business challenges and contributions. Advocacy recently issued a Request for Quotations (RFQ) seeking proposals for new research in four areas. To view the complete solicitations, visit FedBizOpps and search for the solicitation numbers next to each topic. Research is to be conducted in the year following the contract award. These RFQs are for competitive contracts and are not research grants.  The deadline for submitting proposals is Friday, February 8, at 4 p.m. Eastern standard time.

Office of Advocacy Research Proposal Topics, January 2013 

Small Business Access to Capital Using Data Sets

(SBAHQ-13-Q-0003)

This research should use alternative (non-government) data sources to look at the supply and demand sides of the small business lending market  to assess small businesses’ loan demand, their use of capital, and the real economic impact (such as job creation) of small business capital investments.
Data Gaps in Measuring Small Business Dynamics

(SBAHQ-13-Q-0004)

This research should focus on data gaps that prevent policymakers, academics and entrepreneurs from actively measuring the dynamics of small businesses with respect to job creation, access to capital, demographics, and innovation.
Entrepreneurship in an Aging America

(SBAHQ-13-Q-0005)

As the boomer generation ages, the percentage launching second careers as entrepreneurs has fallen slightly. This research should produce recommendations that policymakers can use in determining how to support older workers making the transition from wage work to business ownership.
Support for Small Manufacturers

(SBAHQ-13-Q-0006)

This research should analyze initiatives in support of small manufacturers across selected coordinated economies in Europe and Asia (e.g., Germany, Japan, China, and South Korea). The study may examine small business scale-up, exporting, workforce training, national security needs and other areas.
The deadline for submitting proposals is Friday, February 8, at 4 p.m. Eastern standard time.


The Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration is an independent voice for small business within the federal government.  The presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Chief Counsel for Advocacy advances the views, concerns, and interests of small business before Congress, the White House and federal agencies. To learn more about Advocacy, visit our
website or call (202) 205-6533, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.  

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

Regulatory Alert: IRS Issues Proposed Rules on Employer Shared Responsibility for Health Insurance Coverage

January 7th, 2013 · Comments Off

On December 28, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued proposed regulations that that provide guidance on large employers’ shared responsibility for employee health insurance coverage under Internal Revenue Code section 4980H.  The proposed regulations provide definitions and rules for determining status as an applicable large employer and applicable large employer member, for determining full-time employees, for determining assessable payments under section 4980H(a), for determining whether an employer is subject to assessable payments under section 4980H(b), and for administering and assessing payments under section 4980H.

Comments are due by March 18, 2013.

  • The proposed regulations are on the IRS website.
  • Comments on the final rule can be submitted to the IRS electronically via Regulations.gov (REG-138006-12).
  • The Office of Advocacy contact is Assistant Chief Counsel Dillon Taylor, phone (202) 401-9787.
  • To learn more, visit Regulations.gov, the federal government’s one stop site to comment on federal regulations.
  • For more information on Regulatory Alerts please see the Office of Advocacy webpage.
  • Visit the SBA subscription page to receive Regulatory Alerts in your in box.

graph+monitor readout

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PTO Reviewing Comments Regarding First-to-File Rulemaking

January 4th, 2013 · Comments Off

In 2012, the Office of Advocacy provided input to numerous federal agencies on key regulatory proposals that have a disproportionate impact on small businesses. The Patent and Trademark Office’s overhaul of the U.S. patenting system is one of these critical areas. All comment letters and fact sheets summarizing them are available on Advocacy’s website.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is continuing to move forward in implementing the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), and is reviewing the public comments it has received regarding its proposed rules and examination guidelines concerning the “first-inventor-to-file” (FITF) provisions of the AIA. The majority of comments PTO received focus on the controversial issue of the PTO’s interpretation of the AIA’s grace-period provisions, which allow inventors and third parties to make certain public disclosures regarding an invention before filing a patent application, without jeopardizing the filer’s ability to receive a patent at a later date.

On October 4, Advocacy filed public comments on the proposals after conducting outreach with small entities, including nonprofit research and educational institutions. These stakeholders expressed strong concerns that PTO’s interpretation is inconsistent with congressional intent and would have chilling effects on innovation in the academic setting, as well as within the startup community. Advocacy urged the PTO to consider alternative interpretations of the law.

The draft final regulations are currently being reviewed by Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the White House Office of Management and Budget; they will take effect March 16, 2013. Interested stakeholders should contact Assistant Chief Counsel Jamie Belcore.

—Assistant Chief Counsel Jamie Belcore

techie symbols2

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Advocacy’s 2012 Comments on Three Key Proposed Mortgage Rules

January 3rd, 2013 · Comments Off

In 2012, Advocacy commented on three key revisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA or Regulation X) and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA or Reg Z):

• The integrated mortgage disclosure statement (comments filed November 6)
• Mortgage servicing rules for ARMs (October 5), and
• Loan originator compensation (October 16).

 houses

Mortgage Disclosure Statements. This major rule governs the practices and documents in use when consumers close on real estate loans. Although the proposal makes several changes to RESPA/TILA, the top five issues for small entities concern the costs from the expanded recordkeeping requirements, the difficulties of integrating the two mortgage disclosure statements used under the previous system, problems arising from the revised definition of the term “loan application,” the burden of requiring three days for the presumed receipt of documents, and confusion arising from defining Saturday as a business day.

To alleviate their impact on small business while maintaining the rule’s purpose, Advocacy recommended that CFPB allow for flexibility in small business compliance with the regulation, delaying the effective date of one measure, providing an exemption from another, and specific modifications of others.

Mortgage Servicing. The proposed rule would require periodic statements for residential mortgages, a six-month notification prior to the reset of the initial rate of hybrid Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs), and the possible extension of this requirement to other ARMs. Small entities have said that these changes would be costly for them. Small mortgage servicers use a different business model that is relationship-based and customer service-friendly. As such, they argue that they were not the cause of some of the problems that the statute was meant to address. Advocacy encouraged the CFPB to exempt small entities from many of the requirements of the proposal. For the aspects of the proposal that do not exempt small entities, Advocacy encouraged the CFPB to provide small entities with a sufficient amount of time for them to comply with the requirements of this proposal.

Mortgage Loan Originator Compensation. The proposal would implement statutory changes to Regulation Z’s current loan originator compensation provisions, including a new restriction on the imposition of any upfront discount points, origination points, or fees on consumers under certain circumstances. Advocacy encouraged the CFPB to clarify aspects of the proposal, to fully consider small entities’ concerns, and to carefully consider the alternatives that have been set forth by the industry. Advocacy also encouraged the CFPB to develop revenue limits that reflect the unique business structure of smaller industry members and provide relief to small entities.

The comment letters and fact sheets summarizing them are available on Advocacy’s website.

—Assistant Chief Counsel Jennifer Smith

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2012 Accomplishments, 2013 Horizons

December 21st, 2012 · 3 Comments

As 2012 winds down, the Office of Advocacy continues to build up an impressive number of achievements working with federal agencies and small business owners to bring transparency to the regulatory process. The synergy between our research and regulatory work continues to strengthen both areas; timely and actionable research is the foundation of efficient and sound regulation.

In 2012, Advocacy was pleased to see the introduction of Executive Order 13610, Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens. This built on Executive Orders 13563 and 13609, supporting a structural reporting requirement for regulatory reform and review.

During 2012 we saw the exit of OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein. Before departing Sunstein made clear the need to assess the cumulative impact of regulation, which was part of a wider recognition of the need to assess the regulatory cost-benefit calculus.

Sunstein at Roundtable

This affirmation is particularly relevant as several key statutes will require agencies to issue new implementing regulations. Among these are:

• The Affordable Care Act, with new regulatory proposals issued or forthcoming from the Departments of Health and Human Services (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), Labor, and Treasury (Internal Revenue Service);

• The America Invents Act, which set in motion the Patent and Trademark Office’s overhaul of the patent process, including implementation of the “first-inventor-to-file” patent provision; and

• The Dodd-Frank Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and added small business review panels to the agency for rulemakings expected to have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. So far, four panels have been convened as part of the agency’s overhaul of consumer lending practices. Advocacy has been a partner on all of these panels.

The widening recognition of Advocacy’s key role was apparent in November, during the American Bar Association’s administrative law conference in Washington. Advocacy staff were facilitators and panelists at four well-attended sessions.

Jennifer's panel

Advocacy understands the role that statistics play in supporting the small business community. This year we updated our most widely used publication, “Frequently Asked Questions about Small Business.” We added informative graphics and doubled the amount of data from previous editions to make it even more helpful. Our Office of Economic Research has replaced its annual small business data set with quarterly data bulletins, again to improve accessibility and timeliness of information.

As part of the recognition that no “one size fits all” small businesses, Advocacy launched our Innovation Initiative. The Innovation Initiative is designed to shed light on concerns and challenges faced by emerging sectors of our economy, among them, key sectors in life sciences, clean energy, advanced manufacturing, nanomaterials, and data mining (big data).

In September, we held a one-day event in Seattle, Washington, highlighting the ways that the public and private sectors can work together in support of innovative small businesses. To better understand the needs of this high-growth sector, Advocacy staff also participated in events held by other organizations which focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Many issues that disproportionately affect innovative businesses were discussed. Some examples include visas and immigration issues; intellectual property and patents; early stage financing options (crowd funding, micro-finance, venture capital, angel investment); the SBIR/STTR programs; specific licensing procedures, e.g., FDA 510(k); and specific tax policies that affect entrepreneurs, startups, and innovative sectors.

Seattle_web_logo

Advocacy’s central role of listening to small business remains a constant. Our regional advocates are essential in providing unfettered access to emerging entrepreneurs and small business owners. As a voice for small business within the federal government, our effectiveness will continue to be measured and driven by how closely we remain in touch with small businesses.

—Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy

Advo staff at conference 

→ 3 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Region III Innovation Events Span Startup, Mentoring, Market-Entry

December 17th, 2012 · Comments Off

All across Region III, diverse institutions are promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in novel and energetic ways. These are exciting developments because they are expanding discourse and making room for disparate groups to deliberately and systematically work together. This was my takeaway from three events in which I recently participated.

In Pittsburgh, the AlphaLab Demo Day featured pitches from innovators and entrepreneurs from the joint partnership of Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, and Innovation Works. I had the honor of addressing the group at its evening session. Innovation Works is a southwestern Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Institute focused on innovation growth using mentorship and investment. It includes a 20-week AlphaLab Accelerator program that enables entrepreneurs to fast-track their market entry by reducing marketing and technology risk.

The second event was Lehigh Valley’s first StartUp Weekend, which took place at the Ben Franklin Technology Institute on Lehigh University’s Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus. I witnessed an event that was alive with an electric creativity, as the final stretch of a 54-hour weekend event yielded eleven competing teams. I was privileged to speak at the finals and the awards night.

A third event was hosted by U.Va. Innovation, the University of Virginia’s research accelerator. Titled the “Entrepreneurship Cup,” or “E-Cup,” it featured pitches from finalists from the university’s Schools of Law, Business, Health Sciences, Engineering, Education, Arts and Sciences, Commerce, and their newest addition, the Social Entrepreneurship track.

The winners of the University of Virginia’s 2012 E-Cup, the PhageFlag team, accept their prize. © 2012 University of Virginia.

The winners of the University of Virginia’s 2012 E-Cup, the PhageFlag team, accept their prize. © 2012 University of Virginia.

More than 240 entrepreneurs and innovators and 600 other individuals participated in the three events. Innovations ranged from a cardiovascular diagnostic imaging tool, to an iPad/Android app that allows teachers and students to communicate seamlessly, to a unique food truck catering to vegetarian tastes. At the Lehigh University event, one team filed a provisional patent for a home-brew beer-making machine within the 54-hour StartUp Weekend period!

Prizes were just as diverse, including monetary awards, free office space, business development, and legal consulting. Some of these relatively new innovators even made inroads into their markets at these events—one company closed a significant deal for its scientifically formulated beauty products.

Nicki Zevola, of the cosmetics company FutureDerm, was one of the startups pitching innovative products at the AlphaLab Demo Day in Pittsburgh.

Nicki Zevola, of the cosmetics company FutureDerm, was one of the startups pitching innovative products at the AlphaLab Demo Day in Pittsburgh.

What these and many events show is that there is a great buildup of entrepreneurship and innovation across the region. As I write, there are more invitations to attend other events for the rest of the year and into 2013. Each event is another great opportunity to expand on the work begun this fall at the Seattle conference on innovation and entrepreneurship.

—Ngozi Bell, Region III Advocate

Comments OffTags: State and Regional

NOAA To Withdraw Proposal Requiring Southeastern Shrimpers to Equip Vessels with Turtle Excluder Devices

November 30th, 2012 · Comments Off

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced its intent to withdraw a proposed rule that would have required the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) by commercial shrimping vessels in the southeast fisheries.  The rule would have affected an estimated 6,500 shrimp fishermen.  In its regulatory flexibility analysis of the proposed rule, NOAA estimated that the proposal would have meant a loss of nearly 5 percent of the current shrimp harvest for each affected vessel, in addition to annual and recurring costs associated with acquiring and maintaining multiple devices on each boat. 

During the public comment period for the proposed rule, the Office of Advocacy gathered input from small fishing businesses operating in the southeastern fisheries.  These businesses expressed concerns that the proposed rule would cause significant economic harm to the already fragile shrimping industry in the Gulf of Mexico.  In response to this feedback, Advocacy filed a public comment letter regarding the proposed rule.  (Advocacy’s website also contains a fact sheet summarizing the issues.)

Shrimp boats in Port Sulfur, Louisiana.   Photo by Caitlin Cain

Shrimp boats in Port Sulfur, Louisiana. Photo by Caitlin Cain

Advocacy’s comments to NOAA echoed small business concerns that the use of TEDs would be cost-prohibitive and, in some cases, technologically infeasible for many small businesses.  Advocacy recommended that NOAA evaluate alternatives that would exclude smaller vessels from the regulations to avoid forcing a significant number of them out of business.  Advocacy also urged NOAA to reconsider implementing its proposed rule unless it could show a stronger link between increased sea turtle strandings and commercial shrimping, as well as rule out other causes raised by small business stakeholders in comments.

In a press release announcing NOAA’s intent to withdraw the proposed rule, Dr. Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, stated that the information the agency now has regarding the effectiveness of TEDs in the targeted fishery “suggests the conservation benefit does not justify the burden this rule would place on the industry.”  The agency plans to research further options for reducing sea turtle mortality in the southeastern fishery.

 —Jamie Belcore, Assistant Chief Counsel

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

Go Ahead, Take That Risk!

November 28th, 2012 · 1 Comment

 

Tomorrow, Kansas City will be humming with the innovation vibe. Two energetic Kansas City–area entrepreneurs, Jabbar Wesley and Eze Redwood—will be launching the city’s first NovelDay at the headquarters of Burns & McDonnell, the international engineering firm.

How many budding entrepreneurs are holding off on implementing a great idea because they lack the confidence to take the leap? Can risktaking be learned?  How do you overcome fear of failure?  In my travels around America’s Heartland I’ve come across many individuals and organizations grappling with these questions.

Jabbar Wesley and Eze Redwood at a NovelDay planning session.

Jabbar Wesley and Eze Redwood at a NovelDay planning session.

Wesley and Redwood recognized this problem—and the opportunity. NovelDay is about cultivating innovative thinking and risktaking among entrepreneurs. The event brings together leaders and organizations with global influence, while showcasing Kansas City as NovelCity, USA. From media personalities to the high-wire artist Nik Wallenda, the day finds new angles, sources and resources to nurture your inner risktaker.

 “Think Novel, Take Risks” is the theme of the day. That means growing ideas, finding possibilities, and transforming individuals so that they are able to act on their entrepreneurial options. Be part of turning this idea into reality—check it out at www.NovelCity.org.

—Becky Greenwald, Region VII Advocate

Becky Greenwald is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri.

→ 1 CommentTags: State and Regional

Shop Small on Saturday, November 24

November 21st, 2012 · 3 Comments

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the Small Business Administration website.

In between the Black Friday sales and the Cyber Monday deals is Small Business Saturday (November 24th) – a day set aside to support the small businesses that play a vital role in creating jobs and economic opportunities all across the country.

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. And when we shop small, we not only get great products and services, but we support our neighbors and strengthen our local economies.

open for business

Over the last two decades, small and new businesses have been responsible for creating two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S., and today over half of all working Americans own or work for a small business.

Last year, Small Business Saturday gave a boost to many of these Main Street businesses, with more than 100 million Americans shopping at independently-owned small businesses. And this year we can do even better!

So what can you do to participate?

  • If you are a business owner, register your business at www.shopsmall.com so your customers know where to find you and you can receive free Small Business Saturday promotional materials. You can also make sure you’re prepared for the holiday season by checking out SBA’s advice at www.sba.gov/saturday.
  • If you are a customer, learn which businesses in your community are participating in Small Business Saturday at www.shopsmall.com. The website provides information on businesses currently registered and how you can rally your community to support the initiative.

By shopping small, we can help America’s small businesses do what they do best: grow their businesses, create good jobs, and ensure that our communities are vibrant.

I encourage you to join small business owners and the more than one hundred million people who were part of Small Business Saturday last year.

Shop small this holiday season. I know I will.

—Karen Mills, Administrator, Small Business Administration

→ 3 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Panel Examines Regulatory Developments and Women-Owned Businesses

November 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment

 

On November 7, the greater D.C. chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) presented a panel on trends in finance, policy, and regulatory requirements that affect women small business owners. Treliant Risk Advisors hosted the event, Regulatory Developments Affecting Women-Owned Businesses, and Advocacy Economist Christine Kymn was a panelist. In the audience were women business owners in IT consulting, real estate, financial planning, risk management, and other sectors.

NAWBO got its start in 1974 as an informal group of women business owners in the Washington, D.C., area who met to trade information about federal contracts, bank credit, and business issues. Today, the organization fosters growth in women-owned businesses through focused programming and strategic relationships. NAWBO aims to build a community of women business owners, influence public policy, and encourage and support women’s business ownership. Many NAWBO members work in fields like engineering, which are typically dominated by males, and NAWBO is an important communication and support network for them.

The regulatory developments panel aimed to serve these overarching goals by introducing women business owners to regulatory issues that may affect them as well as to the advocacy and data resources available to them. Each panel member offered specialized issue perspectives and resources, and audience participation was encouraged and received throughout.

Ann Sullivan, President of Madison Services Group and head of WIPP’s government relations team, moderated the panel of experts in government regulations.  Dr. Kymn identified a variety of data and research resources available from the Office of Advocacy, including databases that are specific to women-owned small businesses and the most recent summation of Census data on women in business. Jane Luxton, a partner at Pepper and Hamilton LLP, highlighted her experience working with Advocacy on environmental and consumer finance roundtables. Luxton pointed out that these roundtables provide small businesses with an opportunity to voice concerns to and learn about issues directly from regulatory agencies and Advocacy. Nick Owens, CEO of Magnolia Strategy LLC and a former SBA national ombudsman, noted the resources available from SBA in procurement and regulatory process enforcement. Wrapping up was JoAnn Barefoot, Co-Chair at Treliant Risk Advisors and a former deputy comptroller of the currency. Barefoot currently serves on the CFPB Consumer Advisory Board, and spoke to upcoming trends in financial regulation, as well as requirements specific to women-owned small businesses (for instance, SBA’s 2011 rule aimed at expanding federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses).

Overall, the panel provided an excellent platform for reciprocal communication and learning about both the needs and resources available to women business owners. Feedback during Q&A and following the panel indicated that the topic was very useful to NAWBO members; their prior knowledge of the spectrum of available regulatory and data resources was limited, but they fully intended to make use of them going forward. Panel members likewise benefited from the specific examples participants raised.

—by Christine Kymn, Regulatory Economist

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics

Advocacy Comments on Proposed Mortgage Disclosure Regulations

November 14th, 2012 · Comments Off

On November 6, the Office of Advocacy submitted comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on the proposed rule on Integrated Mortgage Disclosures under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA” or Regulation X) and the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA” or Regulation Z). The rule governs the practices and documents in use when consumers close on real estate loans.

red and greeen houses

Advocacy has held several roundtables to listen to the concerns of small community banks regarding the proposed regulation. Their five top issues concern the costs from the expanded recordkeeping requirements, the difficulties of integrating the two mortgage disclosure statements used under the previous system, problems arising from the revised definition of the term “loan application,” the burden of requiring three days for the presumed receipt of documents, and confusion arising from defining Saturday as a business day.

All of these concerns are perceived as roadblocks to mortgage lending by small community banks. To alleviate their impact on small business while maintaining the rule’s purpose, Advocacy recommended that CFPB allow for flexibility in small business compliance with the regulation, delaying the effective date of one measure, providing an exemption from another, and specific modifications of others. For complete information, see Advocacy’s letter of November 6. The details are also spelled out in a fact sheet on Advocacy’s website.

If you have any questions regarding Advocacy’s position on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Smith at 202-205-6943. For more information about the Office of Advocacy, please visit our website  or telephone 202-205-6533. To receive Advocacy’s Regulatory Communications by email, visit www.sba.gov/updates.

—Rebecca Krafft, Editor

 

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Advocacy Participates in ABA Expert Session on SBREFA Panels

November 9th, 2012 · Comments Off

 Two of Advocacy’s attorneys, Assistant Chief Counsels Bruce Lundegren and Kevin Bromberg, were key members of a panel at the American Bar Association’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section conference in Washington, D.C., on October 25. The panel, “Building Effective SBREFA Panels,” explored the requirements for incorporating small business input into regulatory proposals as set forth in the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA). Bruce Lundegren moderated the panel and Kevin Bromberg was a panelist, along with Lanelle Wiggins of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bob Burt of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Jeff Longsworth of Barnes &  Thornburg LLC, a private law firm.

Moderator Bruce Lundegren introduces the panel: (left to right): Lanelle Wiggins (EPA), Bob Burt (OSHA), Kevin Bromberg, and Jeff Longsworth (Barnes &  Thornburg LLC).

Moderator Bruce Lundegren introduces the panel: (left to right): Lanelle Wiggins, Bob Burt, Kevin Bromberg, and Jeff Longsworth.

When it became law in 1996, SBREFA required EPA and OSHA to convene review panels for each proposed rule that, if promulgated, would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities—small businesses, nonprofit organizations, or governmental jurisdictions. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), recently created by the Dodd-Frank Act, is also subject to the SBREFA panel requirement.

A SBREFA panel is made up of representatives of the federal agency (EPA, OSHA, or CFPB), the Office of Advocacy, and the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Assisting the panel in reviewing the draft rule and background materials are small entity representatives from the industries affected by the proposal. They provide advice and recommendations to the panel. The panel then compiles a report of its findings and submits it to the head of the agency.

The ABA panel participants explored the nature and depth of materials provided to the small entity representatives, as well as procedures for ensuring effective dialogue between the small entity reps and the panelists. Lanelle Wiggins and Bob Burt discussed their respective agencies’ views about SBREFA, while Jeff Longsworth and Kevin Bromberg looked at the process from the perspectives of a legal practitioner and the Office of Advocacy.

A successful panel will help an agency achieve its statutory objectives while minimizing the impact on small entities, the panel concluded. The process is successful when a well-selected group of small entity reps provides informed and effective advice to the panel, allowing the panel to reach consensus recommendations on how to achieve effective and less burdensome regulation. 

The attorneys on the panel have all been involved in many SBREFA panels, and they provided important input on the process, especially to the CFPB officials in attendance at the session.

For more information, contact Bruce Lundegren or Kevin Bromberg.

—Bruce Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel

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Office of Advocacy Has a Strong Showing at Administrative Law Conference

November 7th, 2012 · Comments Off

 

“I’ll let you write the substance…you let me write the procedure, and I’ll screw you every time.”

—Representative John Dingell
(Hearing on H.R. 2327, Regulatory Reform Act, before the Subcomm. on Admin. Law and Governmental Regulations of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 98th Cong. 312 [1983])

Representative Dingell’s window into the world of lawmaking is legendary in the legal profession.  And it is a truism that extends beyond just the chambers of Congress.  Most federal law is made within the federal agencies, and the rules of procedure that govern the writing and enforcement of agency-made law are part of what lawyers call “administrative law.”  It shouldn’t be a surprise that the attorneys in the Office of Advocacy’s Office of Interagency Affairs are active in this field.

Our attorneys’ involvement in administrative law was on display last week at the Fall Conference of the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. Several Advocacy assistant chief counsels organized and moderated four panels on the first day, and most played to standing-room-only crowds.

Assistant Chief Counsel Jennifer Smith, who sits on the section’s governing council, moderated the panel called “White House Review of Rulemaking: Strengthen, Mend, About Right, or Abolish?”  Reflecting a perennial debate within the section, panelists lined up for and against the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and its role in regulatory review; the two sides aligned  mostly according to their views on the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) in agency decisionmaking.
 Jennifer's panel

CBA was the subject of two panels moderated by Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker.  In the morning panel, panelists defined CBA and explained some of the issues that arise in developing analyses that are useful to policymakers during the rulemaking process.
  Dave Rostker at podium

Office of Advocacy Economist Christine Kymn (a former policy analyst at OIRA) saved the day as a last-minute substitute speaker, explaining the requirements of OMB Circular A-4, OMB’s guidance on regulatory analysis.

Christine Kymn at podium

In the afternoon panel on CBA, panelists discussed topical controversies, covering Congressional interest in strengthening requirements for regulatory analysis, issues with the CBAs conducted by financial regulatory agencies in support of rules implementing the Dodd–Frank  Act, and a recent D.C. circuit court case that hinged on the quality of an agency’s analysis.

The final panel of the day was “Building Successful SBREFA Panels.”  Assistant Chief Counsel Kevin Bromberg organized this panel and Assistant Chief Counsel Bruce Lundegren moderated.  Panelists included officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration who had run SBREFA panels, and a private attorney who had represented small entities in a number of SBREFA panels. (SBREFA panels examine rulemaking topics which are expected to have a significant impact on small entities prior to the drafting of rules. They are named for the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Enforcement Act, which amended the Regulatory Flexibility Act.)   The panelists emphasized the value of SBREFA panels and the importance of frequent and open consultations.

Bruce + Kevin's panel

—Reporting by Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker;
photos by Assistant Chief
Counsel Janis Reyes

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Getting It Right—How Can the Public Sector Help the Innovation Sector Thrive?

October 31st, 2012 · 1 Comment

What will the technological breakthroughs of 2062 look like? No one knows. What we do know, however, is that today’s innovation and entrepreneurship will be their foundation.

This was one of my takeaways from the Office of Advocacy’s symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962. A close second was a better understanding of the Innovation Sector and the kind of help it needs from government.

Advocacy was pleased to cosponsor this exciting event looking back 50 years to the futuristic 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and forward to the “Next 50.” Advocacy has a role to play as the independent voice for small business in government. It’s our job to amplify the voice of small business before policymakers. And to do this effectively, we wanted to engage entrepreneurs directly on regulatory issues that are of concern to them. Traveling to Seattle to listen to cutting-edge high-tech small businesses was an important part of educating our office. This is key to Advocacy’s Innovation Initiative, which highlights the unique needs of startups and small firms bringing innovative products and services to the marketplace.

The excitement generated by thirsty, risk-taking entrepreneurs in Seattle is a world away from the government bureaucracy of Washington, D.C. So Advocacy’s conference was an opportunity to listen and learn. Throughout the day, participants learned about an array of businesses and their varying needs and challenges; we learned about startup accelerators and participated in interactive exercises that have been the catalyst for many startup successes; and we learned about current and cutting-edge ways of financing innovation.

Introducing the day was Jenn Clark, the Northwest regional advocate whose dedication to her region’s businesses was a driving force in making the conference a reality. Advocacy’s 10 regional advocates were all in attendance, looking for ways of multiplying the lessons in play in Seattle. The D.C. office sent its legal expertise, in the form of regulatory attorneys who work directly with federal agencies.

Our keynote speaker, University of Washington President Michael K. Young, described UW’s quest to become America’s number one research institution through the dual goals of attracting the brightest faculty and students and accelerating the commercialization of UW research. His plan to make UW the best place in the world to do research rests on four principles:

• Researchers and top graduate student candidates in high-demand areas must care about commercialization,
• UW has to provide unparal­leled commercialization support,
• The Northwest region needs to be recognized as a hotbed of entrepreneurship and tech transfer, and
• Leadership and policy need to support faculty entrepreneurship.

So far the plan seems to be working. A number of success­ful companies have spun-out from UW, and a subset of those have had a successful exit through either a merger or acquisition with a larger company.

Deputy Chief Counsel Claudia Rodgers, Panel Moderator Jonathan Sposato, Keynote Speaker Michael K. Young, and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant.

Deputy Chief Counsel Claudia Rodgers, Panel Moderator Jonathan Sposato, Keynote Speaker Michael K. Young, and Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant.

The interaction of the private and public sectors was the focus of the first panel. It highlighted the role that government has played in the support and the fund­ing of emerging companies. To help entrepreneurs increase their chances of successfully launching and growing companies, government must continue to adapt to the challenges these firms face. One example is the need to re-examine the structure of funding program cycles, to bring them into sync with the needs of small firms. This also means that the response time to funding proposals must have consistency and a timely reply.

The afternoon was kicked into high gear with a condensed version of Startup Weekend’s 54-hour boot camp, which let all in attendance experience the intensity of start­ing a company. This high-energy exercise helped to reinforce the kind of outside-the-box thinking from which a novel business plan might emerge. Showcasing innovation accelerators such as Startup Weekend and the Northwest Entrepreneur Network introduced entrepreneurs to the different types of mentors, funders, and managerial talent that are available to help launch a startup.

Participants in Panel 2: Maximizing Entrepreneurship: Showcasing Innovation Accelerators: Marc Nager, Winslow Sargeant, Christine Kymn, and Daniel Rossi.

Participants in Panel 2: Maximizing Entrepreneurship: Showcasing Innovation Accelerators: Marc Nager, Winslow Sargeant, Christine Kymn, and Daniel Rossi.

The symposium ended with a discussion of emerging capital strategies. Representatives of the venture capital, angel, crowd funding, and revenue loan communities offered advice on landing investment, including the importance of forging strong and lasting relationships with investors. When the discussion moved to crowd funding, panelists rolled up their sleeves and shared their opinions on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s anticipated rulemaking on crowd funding. Panelists warned that the easing of securities regulations must be done responsibly, but recognized that crowd funding could increase the number of new startups by freeing up a currently untapped funding source—the general public.

The conference launched Advocacy’s Innovation Initiative in a direct and relevant way, educating all present and gathering input to improve public support for innovators. Your ideas and continued feedback are most welcome. Please direct all input to innovation.advocacy@sba.gov. I look forward to hearing from many of you.

Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy

→ 1 CommentTags: State and Regional

Research To Examine Small Business Job Creation, Finance, Veteran-Owned Business, and Sales Tax

October 17th, 2012 · 24 Comments

 

 

“The mission of Advocacy’s Office of Economic Research is to conduct, sponsor, and promote economic research that provides an environment for small business growth.”

The Office of Advocacy recently awarded seven research contracts using fiscal year 2012 funds. The awards are listed in the table on this page. The topics include research into how and why small businesses decide to hire their first employee, the effects of a potential tax on Internet sales on small online retailers, and the benefits of various tax expenditure programs in the federal income tax code to small businesses.  In addition, two studies will be conducted on each of two topics: how the use of credit scores affects small firms’ ability to access capital, especially women and minority-owned firms; and longitudinal, time series analysis of veteran-owned businesses with respect to growth, decline, firm survival, and employment.

Topic

Contractor

Location

The Effect of Credit Scoring on the Ability of Small Businesses to Borrow

Alicia Robb

San Rafael, Calif.

Crossing the Employer Threshold: Evidence on the Determinants of Firms Hiring their First Employee

Robert Fairlie

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Research on Veteran Businesses

Compendium Federal Technology, LLC

Lexington Park, Md.

Credit Scores and Credit Markets Outcomes: Evidence from the SSBF and KFS

Krahenbuhl Global Consulting

Chicago, Ill.

Internet Sales Taxation and Small Online Retailers

Donald Bruce

Walland, Tenn.

Research on Longitudinal Analysis of Veteran-Owned Businesses and Veteran Business Owners

SAG Corporation

Annandale, Va.

Measuring the Benefits of Tax Expenditures Used by Small Business

Quantria Strategies

Cheverly, Md.

—Joseph Johnson, Director of Economic Research

→ 24 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics

Patent and Trademark Office Extends Comment Deadline for First-Inventor-to-File Regulations

October 11th, 2012 · Comments Off

 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that is extending the public comment period for its proposed rules implementing the first-inventor-to-file (FITF) provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA).  The USPTO has received several requests for additional time to submit comments.  Therefore, the USPTO is reopening the comment period to provide interested members of the public with an additional opportunity to submit comments to the USPTO.

Comments on the proposed rule and accompanying examination guidelines must now be submitted to USPTO by November 5, 2012.

•  First-Inventor-to-File Proposed Rules (77 Fed. Reg. 43742, July 26, 2012 ).

•  First-Inventor-to-File Proposed Examination Guidelines (77 Fed. Reg. 43759, July 27, 2012).

•  Submit comments via email at fitf_rules@uspto.gov and fitf_guidance@uspto.gov.

•  Visit the AIA micro-site for other information related to USPTO’s AIA implementation activities.

•  Advocacy Contact: Jamie Saloom at 202-205-6890.

For more information on Regulatory Alerts please see the Office of Advocacy webpage.

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A Growing Family-Owned Small Business Welcomes Advocacy on Jacksonville Site Visit

October 5th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Jerome Brown BBQ Site Visit

The Browns welcome the Chief Counsel.

On September 27th, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant and I had the opportunity to visit with the founders of the Jerome Brown Barbecue Sauce Company in Jacksonville, Florida. Jerome, JoAnn, and Katrina Brown welcomed Dr. Sargeant and me to their new 36,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Their new expanded home allows them to manufacture, bottle, and package shipment for retailers around the country. Walmart has begun carrying their products in several test markets, and expansion to the entire chain and other retail companies is anticipated in the near future.

The Browns were recipients of a $2.9 million SBA loan and a $250,000 loan from the city of Jacksonville to expand their operations. It is expected that up to 56 people will be hired by the company by the time the manufacturing facility becomes fully operational in the spring/summer of 2013.

And did I mention that their sauce is delicious?

Mark Berson, Region 4 Advocate

Mark Berson is the regional small business advocate for region 4, which consists of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

→ 1 CommentTags: State and Regional

Going It Alone?

October 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off

 

An energetic group of entrepreneurs participated—on stage, in the audience, and online—at Advocacy’s Seattle conference on September 19. The first panel focused on “Small Business Innovators: The Public-Private Relationship.” Moderator Jonathan Sposato noted that in the course of creating their businesses, the entrepreneurs on the panel ran into some issues and looked elsewhere for help.

As I watched the diverse panel of successful entrepreneurs, I wondered what they had in common—was there anything (besides money) that had contributed to everyone’s success? And then I was struck by the parallels in their company histories.

Dave Roberts of PopCap Games said, “PopCap was founded in 2000 by three guys. In 2005, they hired me as the CEO. They had great passion for what they were doing every single day, but they had no idea what to do with all the profits they were making.”

Matt Silver of Cambrian Innovation Inc., said, “I had been working with a friend at MIT who is in biotechnology and we just became increasingly convinced that if we were going to solve these [environmental] problems, we have to use biotechnology. If we weren’t going to do it, who else was?”

Chris Bajuk of UrbanHarvest talked about his passion—ongoing since childhood—for sprouting seeds in small places. “One of my close friends from business school—we have a mutual affinity because we’re both military veterans—saw how much food I was growing in a small area and he said, ‘We should start a business doing this.’”

Linden Rhoads of the University of Washington’s Center for Commercialization put words around it. She said, “What is really critical is not only having one great leader but having a lot of people with a number of skillsets. I spent a lot of years raising money during a time when it was really hard to do. Our company, Cellular Technical Services, was the best performing stock on NASDAQ in’93, but we almost went out of business about a million times before that. A lot of it is managing to stay in business until the good thing happens—which means you need a lot of talented people around you. When I founded my first company [I thought] that I would get to build a great company culture and put a lot of myself into the product. What I found out is that raising money is a full-time job, and the job of the CEO is to keep the company financed. You’re going to need someone else to do the product development and talk to potential customers.”

Finally, Grace Wang of the National Science Foundation’s Industrial Innovation and Partnerships Division stressed that innovation relies on technology and competent people in partnership—emphasis on the people.

Clearly, it was all about partnership from day one—business partners with different skillsets, resource partners in universities and government—and advocates like those in the Office of Advocacy who listen to small businesses and work within government to create better regulations and small business policy. 

So, can you create an innovative startup on your own? A whole group of “solopreneurs” is doing just that. But even there, teamwork is crucial, according to About.com contributor Mitchell York. “In my own small business,” he writes, “I have created a network of entrepreneurs who partner with each other to our mutual benefit.”

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

Panel on Innovation and the Public-Private Relationship

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Patent Reform Update: First-to-File, Roundtables, Roadshow

September 21st, 2012 · 1 Comment

Over the past year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has been busily implementing provisions of the Leahy–Smith America Invents Act (AIA) in advance of the effective dates of the law’s most significant changes to the U.S. patent system. Several earlier proposed rules are now final and will be effective in September. Other proposed rules are now out for public comment and will be effective by March 2013.

Most recently, the PTO issued a notice of proposed rulemaking and examination guidelines for the first-inventor-to-file (FITF) provisions of the AIA. The law converts the system under which PTO examines and approves patent applications from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system, which more closely aligns with international patent systems. All patent applications filed after March 2013 will be subject to the new system. Advocacy has been monitoring the rulemaking and conducting outreach with patent experts, small businesses, trade organizations, and university tech-transfer officers to determine where PTO has been granted discretion to tailor its rules to ensure that small entity stakeholders transition smoothly to the new patent system. PTO  is also conducting significant outreach with the patent community and is hosting a roundtable to discuss the FITF rulemaking at its Alexandria headquarters on September 6.

Additionally, PTO is bringing a roadshow to eight cities in September to share information about several final rules implementing the AIA which became effective on September 16. The final rules relate to provisions for an inventor’s oath/declaration, preissuance submissions, citation of patent owner statements, supplemental examination, inter partes review, post grant review, and covered business method review. The roadshow kicks off in Minneapolis and ends in New York City, with stops in Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, and the PTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. At these events, PTO officials will explain the final rules and answer audience questions. The agency has also indicated that it will be discussing the proposed FITF rules at the roadshow events. For more information, contact Janet Gongola, patent reform coordinator, at (571) 272-8734, or janet.gongola@pto.gov.

—Jamie Saloom, Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy

Region 2 University Students Tap Into Today’s West Coast Conversation

September 19th, 2012 · 4 Comments

 

The Office of Advocacy’s Seattle conference is being webcast live today, and participants everywhere are invited to participate via SuperChat. Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation is a day-long, participant-driven conversation about the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in our economy. It’s being co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, the Northwest Entrepreneur Network, the Seattle Center Foundation, K&L Gates, and GeekWire.com.

The Northwest states are part of federal region 10. Four time zones away in Region 2, students at a half dozen universities are diving into the innovation/entrepreneurship discussion as well. In New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, students and professors will be tying in via webcast, SuperChat, and email.

Lined up to participate are classes at:

•   City University of New York’s LaGuardia Community College;
•   City University of New York’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship, Baruch College;
•   New Jersey Institute of Technology;
•   State University of New York;
•   The University of Puerto Rico; and
•   The University of Virgin Islands.

What better way to maximize the impact of a conference on innovation? You can join us too by tuning in beginning at 9 a.m. Pacific (or noon Eastern time).

To participate, download the day’s agenda from Advocacy’s webpage, then visit the SuperChat site. There you can view all of the day’s sessions, an interview with Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant and Deputy Chief Counsel Claudia Rodgers, and the keynote address by University of Washington President Michael K. Young. From this site you can also explore the topics and email questions to the participants. You may also visit Advocacy on Facebook, and keep track of us on Twitter, #SBGSeattle.

—Teri Coaxum, Region II Advocate, and Rebecca Krafft, Advocacy Blogger

screenshot2

Click the image to view today's conference.

 

→ 4 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Where will you be on September 19th?

September 13th, 2012 · Comments Off

 

You could be going to work as usual. You could be stuck in traffic. You could be studying law, learning the latest computer program, or working on an economics problem. You could be planning to participate in a “Startup Weekend”—or if you just attended one, you could be seeking out funding for the new business your team created in 54 hours.

Or you could be in Seattle—a city of innovation and good coffee—for the “Next Fifty” commemoration of the 1962 World’s Fair. There you could visit a museum of interactive media. You could visit a “parking squid”—an innovative bike rack with a raised bikewheel-clutching tentacle. You could pop your head into “Metropolis,” described as a “personal biosphere” in which people “have an up-close experience of a landscape of native Pacific Northwest plants, as if a section of local forest floor was transported to the interior of the city.”

But the best reason to be in Seattle on September 19th is to join the Office of Advocacy in an exciting one-day conversation about innovation and entrepreneurship, cosponsored with the Seattle Center, Northwest Entrepreneur Network, K&L Gates, and GeekWire.com.

If you haven’t already registered, there’s still room! For more information, photos and bios of all of the day’s dynamic panels, and to register for the Advocacy event, visit Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation.

 —Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

 

 

 

"Metropolis"

"Metropolis"

 

 

 

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Advocacy Participates in a Great Day, Week, and Month in Harlem

September 13th, 2012 · Comments Off

econ devt day

The magic created by Harlem’s past has retained a local community vested in building upon the strong foundation of the neighborhood. In the spirit of continuous, sustainable improvement, Harlem Week began its 38th annual celebration on July 28th, proving that 155th Street to Washington Heights, from the East River to the Hudson, the streets are alive with a distinctive history formed by musicians, restaurants, artists and locals. The spirit of Harlem Week inspired attendees to connect with their community.

With the Festival Santiago Apostol de Loiza a El Barrio kicking off the calendar of events that continued through Thursday August 30th, Harlem Week drew in folks from all over New York to join in the festivities (the “week” actually lasted all month long). The celebration of the arts, history and culture—all while supporting integral small business—made the trip to Harlem more than worthwhile, no matter which borough you call your home.

On August 9th, I was invited to participate in the NYC Business Power Event for Economic Development Day at Columbia University. This day allowed the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, The Christian Times, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, and the Harlem Community Development Corporation to come together to celebrate small business in the Harlem community offering an enriching experience. It’s an environment complete with exhibits, networking and collaborating that brings a variety of sectors together, including food merchants, local shops, aspiring artists, and community groups.

This invitation gave me a chance to talk about the Office of Advocacy and explain my role as Region II Advocate. The attendees were eager to hear about how the office, headed up by Chief Counsel for Advocacy Dr. Winslow Sargeant, identifies issues of concerns through economic research, policy analysis, and outreach to small business owners and trade associations. As small businesses are the predominant economic backbone of Harlem, these events have a significant, supportive impact on the community.

As the Office of Advocacy goes forward, we continue to support small businesses by encouraging policies that foster their growth. We look forward to participating in Harlem Week 2013.

—Teri Coaxum, Region II Advocate

Teri Coaxum is the regional advocate for New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can reach her at teri.coaxum@sba.gov.

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An interview with Chief Counsel Winslow Sargeant about Advocacy’s Seattle conference

September 10th, 2012 · Comments Off

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Chief Counsel Winslow Sargeant will lead Advocacy’s conference in Seattle on September 19th in conjunction with the Next Fifty celebration of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. I spoke recently with Dr. Sargeant about his hopes for the conference:

Q: What made Advocacy decide to convene this conference?

Dr. Sargeant: One of the ways Advocacy stays informed is by bringing together some of the best and brightest leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship. This conference in conjunction with Seattle’s “Next Fifty” commemoration is like the halftime at a football game—we’re at the midpoint of a century of innovation looking back at the enormous achievements by entrepreneurs, academia, and government over the past fifty years and looking ahead to try to envision what is needed as we start the next fifty.

Q: What intrigues you about the lineup of speakers and panelists?

Dr. Sargeant: They represent leaders in all facets of the economy—innovators and entrepreneurs as well as policymakers, academics, and investors. We’re fortunate to have such a dynamic group willing to advise us about how we can make further great strides in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Q: What are some growth areas for entrepreneurship in Seattle and nationwide?

Dr. Sargeant: When I look at Seattle, I see a whole host of growth areas, from aeronautics and software to e-commerce, from medical devices and research to forestry and natural resource applications. There are similar hubs of innovation around the nation. I’m pleased that the discussion will have relevance, not only for Seattle, but for national policy.

Q: What entrepreneurial challenges will need to be addressed in the future?

Dr. Sargeant: Over the next half century we will face challenges on how we provide a better quality of life. We will have to adapt our workplaces to the new wireless “unplugged” technology. Technology has a creative-destructive quality—what it creates on one hand it destroys on another—so where will the net benefits be? As we develop new technologies, we will need to explore how they will be financed, and how to safeguard our personal data. A great thing about America’s entrepreneurs is that they look forward and develop solutions to problems in a timely and cost-effective way—and by so doing, they create unprecedented innovations.

Q: What are appropriate roles for government and academia?

Dr. Sargeant: Government and universities have played central roles historically in building physical infrastructure and developing and sharing technologies. How will those roles change with our budgetary constraints? We’ll be listening to our panelists for recommendations on how the public-private partnership will be redefined in our future economy.  

Q: What are some hoped-for outcomes and how will the Office of Advocacy follow up?

Dr. Sargeant: As we look at the challenges for entrepreneurs, innovators, and government, we hope we can list some possible solutions—or even additional challenges—which we can pass on to policymakers in the White House, Congress, and federal agencies. Our results will also help inform the “innovation initiative” we’ve started to help entrepreneurs lower the barriers they face in starting and growing their businesses. We will continue this dialogue, because for us to be effective, we need to hear the unique concerns of individual business owners. 

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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How does a university foster entrepreneurial spinouts from research?

September 7th, 2012 · Comments Off

 

State Commerce Director Rogers Weed, C4C Vice Provost Linden Rhoads, and UW President Michael Young launch New Venture Facility.

State Commerce Director Rogers Weed, C4C Vice Provost Linden Rhoads, and UW President Michael Young launch New Venture Facility.

 

Q: What do these have in common?

  • A firm using polymer-based technology to improve the speed of clinical laboratory tests for infectious diseases, cancer, and metabolic disorders,
  • A company developing scalable simulation software for cloud environments, and
  • A startup that converts waste glass into versatile green building materials.

A: All three are new companies spun out of research conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle. Earlier this year, they were among the first startups to take up residence in the New Venture Facility in Fluke Hall, part of an effort led by UW President Michael K. Young and UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) Vice Provost Linden Rhoads. Through the New Venture Facility and a number of other initiatives, UW and C4C are making a concerted effort to double the number of startups produced by the UW over the next three years.

The location of the New Venture Facility celebrates Seattle’s dynamism. Fluke Hall was named after John M. Fluke, Sr. a pioneer in the Seattle and Pacific Northwest electronics industry. It’s hard to believe now, but in 1952, David Packard (of Hewlett-Packard) asked Fluke why he would move his company to such a “vacuum” as Seattle. Packard may have been right about some things, but Fluke proved him wrong about Seattle. Fluke helped create UW’s Washington Technology Center and was in the forefront of Seattle’s exploding high-tech world.

President Young joined UW in 2011, bringing his experience as president of the University of Utah, where he helped the university build 2 million square feet of new research and teaching facilities, and led the nation in the number of new companies generated from university research. He’s aiming to boost UW’s startup level next.

Vice Provost Rhoads came on board in 2008 and she and her team are aggressively connecting the dots, arranging meetings among UW researchers, industry representatives, and venture capital firms. Building these relationships is a critical process in forming the commitments that can lead to successful startups.

Both President Young and Vice Provost Rhoads will participate in the Office of Advocacy’s one-day conference in Seattle on September 19. The event is part of Seattle’s “Next Fifty” celebration of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, which looks forward, first by looking back at the technologies that formed the platforms for today’s entrepreneurial economy in Seattle.

The City of Seattle and the University of Washington are increasingly important international players in the development of research-based innovations and startups. To learn more, join the Office of Advocacy in Seattle on September 19! For more information and to register, visit Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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What’s new in startup funding?

September 5th, 2012 · 2 Comments

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“We fund passion, we fund potential, we fund people, we fund success stories,” says the website of Madrona Venture Group, where Greg Gottesman serves as managing director. The company provides seed and early-stage capital to innovative technology companies, primarily in the Northwest. “We fund not only with money, but with time, resources and unbridled enthusiasm for all that goes into taking a company from idea to market success.” The track record includes “30 startup exits and counting.” 

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Greg is among a dynamic group of startup funders who will participate in a panel on Driving Innovation: Emerging Capital Strategies at Advocacy’s one-day conference in Seattle September 19. The conference is being held in conjunction with the “Next Fifty” commemoration of the 1962 World’s Fair (see the Small Business Watchdog, Aug. 10). Rebecca Lovell of GeekWire.com will moderate the panel, which includes Greg along with more financial capital experts:

  • Danae Ringelmann’s company, Indiegogo, is fueling an economic shift as Internet behavior evolves from a world of transactions to a world of relationships. “Crowdfunding” is at a tipping point, and millions are now taking control of their creative causes or entrepreneurial endeavors by raising money from anywhere, anytime, for any idea.* Indiegogo’s open platform has seen a wide variety of crowdfunding campaigns—from funding a museum for Nikola Tesla, to the first-ever crowdfunded baby, to a company selling inflatable solar lights. And of course there was the outpouring of support for Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor, who received nearly $800,000 after a Good Samaritan in Canada set out to raise just $5,000 for her vacation.
  • Wil Schroter also created a funding* platform, Fundable.com., which allows startups to offer rewards such as product or swag to get the company to the next stage. Fundable is targeted to commercial startup businesses (not arts or hobbyist projects), and applicants must be reviewed and accepted. Wil notes that the phenomenal response to his idea shows both how many people need startup funding and how many funding levels are needed—from $10,000 or less to $1 million or more.
  • Andy Sack is executive director of TechStars, managing partner of Founder’s Co-op, and executive chairman of Lighter Capital. TechStars is a startup accelerator that provides mentorship and “seed funding from over 75 top venture capital firms and angel investors.” Founder’s Co-op is a seed-stage investment fund focused on web and mobile applications requiring limited capital with growth potential. Lighter Capital funds businesses through a revolutionary revenue-based financing model that offers a new funding option with “no dilution, no loss of control, and no personal guarantee.”
  • Catherine Mott founded BlueTree Capital Group and BlueTree Allied Angels, which is a regional group of accredited investors who invest in regional early-stage companies. The members-only organization operates as a network of private equity investors who meet monthly to evaluate and consider pre-institutional, early-stage investments.

The Office of Advocacy conference is cosponsored with the Seattle Center, Northwest Entrepreneur Network, and GeekWire.com. For more information and to register, visit Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

*Note: The term “crowdfunding” has been used to describe Indiegogo and Fundable, among other funding platforms; however, they are not crowdfunders under the JOBS Act, because they are not giving equity shares of the companies in exchange for the funding. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has said that crowdfunding as authorized by the JOBS Act is unlawful until the agency issues rules implementing the crowdfunding provisions of the act. The SEC is developing the rules, but has not yet issued them.

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Can You Jumpstart an Innovative Company in 54 Hours?

August 31st, 2012 · 10 Comments

Startup Weekend 1 

“It’s Sunday evening in a huge loft in New York City’s Chinatown, and leaders of nine motley teams are presenting their ideas for startup businesses to investors, advisors, and other wannabe Mark Zuckerbergs.” So begins an Entrepreneur article about “How Startup Weekend Got Its Start.” 

 Startup Weekends take place in locations from Kansas City to Singapore. They are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. More than the cash prizes, the gold medals of these events are the team experiences they foster and the links they help forge to potential funders, mentors, co-founders, managerial talent, subject matter experts, and business service providers.

 Startup Weekend Co-founders Marc Nager and Franck Nouyrigat will be among the participants in a panel on Maximizing Entrepreneurship: Showcasing Innovation Accelerators at the Office of Advocacy’s September 19 conference in Seattle

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Another innovative organization helping entrepreneurs get started and grow is the Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN). Since 1985, NWEN has been “the hive of the Pacific Northwest entrepreneurial community.” Its almost 800 members connect, learn, and share through more than 60 events annually. By offering a community to rely on and educational offerings geared towards the specialized needs of the entrepreneur, NWEN helps its members find the funding and resources they need. Representing NWEN on the panel will be Executive Director Dan Rossi.

 Jonathan Sposato of GeekWire.com will moderate the panel, which includes the Small Business Administration’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, Startup Washington Co-chair Lindsay Andreotti, and Advocacy Economist Christine Kymn. Dr. Sargeant comes from an entrepreneurial background, having started his own successful company. He worked with the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program before being appointed to head the Office of Advocacy. Lindsay Andreotti is chief executive officer of Brilliance Enterprises and the Brilliance Foundation. Dr. Kymn has degrees in economics and law and worked with the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs before joining the Office of Advocacy.

 The Office of Advocacy conference, cosponsored with the Seattle Center, NWEN, and GeekWire is being held in Seattle in conjunction with the “Next Fifty” commemoration of the 1962 World’s Fair. (See the Small Business Watchdog, Aug. 10). For more information and to register, visit Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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What can you learn from Seattle startups and their public-private partnerships?

August 22nd, 2012 · 2 Comments

Jonathan Sposato of GeekWire.com will moderate a panel on Small Business Innovators: The Public/Private Relationship, at the Office of Advocacy’s September 19 conference in Seattle in conjunction with the “Next Fifty” commemoration of the 1962 World’s Fair. (See the Small Business Watchdog, Aug. 10). Panelists from the private, public, and academic sectors will offer a taste of Seattle’s dynamic startup scene and how it is supported by government and university initiatives:

  • Dr. Grace Wang director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) helps support innovative entrepreneurs through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, Industry University Cooperative Research Centers, Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry, and Partnerships for Innovation.
  • Linden Rhoads, vice provost of the University of Washington (UW) Center for Commercialization (C4C) helps entrepreneurial UW researchers protect their innovations, fund commercialization, introduce their research to industry, assess innovation opportunities, and start businesses based on their research.

  • Chris Bajuk had been using hydroponics to grow everything from beans to zucchini in buckets on his back deck. UrbanHarvest, the firm he started with his classmate Chris Sheppard, combined his green thumb with an eye for urban, underutilized, “ultralocal” space on city rooftops.
  • urban_harvest
  • As a Ph.D. student in engineering at MIT, Dr. Matthew Silver found a way to use less energy in the wastewater treatment process. ExoGen, a lead product for Cambrian Innovation, which he founded in 2006, offsets the energy used to treat wastewater through a process that creates significant energy.
  • “That’s crazy—no one will ever play games on phones!” That was one of many myths dispelled by PopCap Games, according to its CEO, David Roberts. And did you know the number one customer of “casual gaming” is women over 50? Markets seldom evolve as you think they will, says Roberts.
  • While focused on his work, Zaarly founder Eric Koester kept getting tickets on his car parked a couple blocks away. “Wouldn’t it be great if I could get someone else to run out and put some money in the meter?” he thought—and a new startup was born. Zaarly will help you find anything, from a local caterer to a used couch.
  • Brian Glaister had a passion for developing robotic prosthetic limbs—and a frustration that his work might never see the light of day. In 2007, he co-founded Cadence Biomedical. Its “Kickstart” product uses a tuning system of springs and cams to capture energy wasted at the beginning of a step and return it at the end.

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For more information, photos and bios for all of the day’s dynamic panels, and to register for the Advocacy event, visit Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation.

Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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University/SBDC Support Encourages USVI Tech Firms

August 15th, 2012 · 2 Comments

With their combination of a culturally diverse people and a rich history, it is no wonder that the islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas attract around 2 million tourists to their beaches every year. Tourism is the driving economic force for a population of just over 106,000, and until this year, the Hovensa oil refinery was a significant economic engine. However, when the refinery closed its doors in mid-February, it created a void in the job market. Still, Virgin Islands residents have shown their strength and determination to keep their eyes on the future, and they continue to thrive and move forward in tough economic times.

In July, I had the opportunity to visit the USVI. As regional advocate for the Office of Advocacy, I worked alongside staff from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in the government contracting matchmaking events on St. Croix and St. Thomas. These events encouraged and offered technical assistance to Virgin Islands small businesses competing for government contracts.

At the events and elsewhere during my visit, I spoke about the Office of Advocacy and my role as Region II Advocate. Small business owners were excited to hear that they have an independent voice within the federal government. The strong alliance between the Virgin Islands SBDC, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Advocacy fostered the opportunity for small businesses to connect with these agencies and potentially generate future collaboration.

While visiting the University of the Virgin Islands I learned about the different campus programs including Research and Technology Park, or RTPark, whose mission is to help technology-based businesses advance within the industry. Another program I learned about was the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research or VI-EPSCoR. As its title suggests, the program works to encourage the growth of the islands’ tech resources.

These and other university programs, plus the open dialogue between the SBDC and the university, combine to create a strong support system for potential entrepreneurs and current small business owners. There is a great deal of assistance, training and education offered as a result of this partnership; learning more about the programs available further reinforced my belief that the Virgin Islands will continue to move forward and grow.

I met and talked to numerous business owners and stakeholders, and I even had the chance to try the Virgin Islands’ famous potato stuffing and curry chicken from a local vendor. Later, when I toured the SBDCs, I spoke with more people who were excited to share ideas and create an open dialogue with the Office of Advocacy. I was also interviewed by the St. Croix Avis newspaper and WVVI–93.5 FM Caribbean Country Radio about my role as Region II Advocate. The enthusiasm I encountered in every direction is a crucial element of the islands’ success.

—Teri Coaxum, Region II Advocate

Teri Coaxum is the regional advocate for New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can reach her at teri.coaxum@sba.gov.

Participating in the Procurement Training and Workshop–St. Croix on July 26 were, from left to right, Bernard Cuffy, Carpet Master VI; Abraham Edwards, SSBCI specialist, Economic Development Administration; Teri Coaxum, region II advocate; Genevieve Whitaker, the Whitaker Consultant Group; Carl Christensen, officer in charge, SBA–USVI; Lindsay Houston, Quality Electric VI; and Eva Ivonne Candelario, SBA business opportunity specialist.

Participating in the Procurement Training and Workshop–St. Croix on July 26 were, from left to right, Bernard Cuffy, Carpet Master VI; Abraham Edwards, SSBCI specialist, Economic Development Administration; Teri Coaxum, region II advocate; Genevieve Whitaker, the Whitaker Consultant Group; Carl Christensen, officer in charge, SBA–USVI; Lindsay Houston, Quality Electric VI; and Eva Ivonne Candelario, SBA business opportunity specialist.

 

Participants in the Government Contracting Procurement Training and Workshop–St. Thomas included, from right, Mary Joe Williams, business counselor/training coordinator, St. Thomas SBDC; Carl Christensen, officer in charge, SBA USVI; Teri Coaxum, region II advocate; and Eva Ivonne Candelario, SBA business opportunity specialist.

Participants in the Government Contracting Procurement Training and Workshop–St. Thomas included, from right, Mary Joe Williams, business counselor/training coordinator, St. Thomas SBDC; Carl Christensen, officer in charge, SBA USVI; Teri Coaxum, region II advocate; and Eva Ivonne Candelario, SBA business opportunity specialist.

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Where do you think America will be in 2062?

August 10th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Where do you think America will be in 2062?


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Fifty years ago, in the midst of the Cold War, the Space Age, and JFK’s presidency, the 21st century was a nearly unfathomable dream of the future. Nevertheless, in 1962, millions of American dreamers converged on the country’s far northwestern corner for a glimpse into the future at the Seattle World’s Fair, officially known as the Century 21 Exposition. This year, the city of Seattle looks forward once again, by looking back at the progress made since the World’s Fair and considering the “Next Fifty.”

As a part of this visioning process, the Office of Advocacy—with cosponsors Northwest Entrepreneur Network, The Seattle Center Foundation, and GeekWire.com—is hosting a free one-day event in Seattle on September 19. The conference will focus on public-private partnerships that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. The event will feature panels of entrepreneurs who together have created 21st century startups for such innovations as rooftop gardening, Internet games, interactive news for geeks, and crowdfunding. Other discussions will highlight organizations like Startup Weekend whose events bring entrepreneurs together to start companies (did I mention in just 54 hours?!). Many of these startups’ nimble, tech-savvy ideas, although unheard of in 1962, had distant roots in 1960s technology such as the big, unwieldy mainframe computers of the day.

The program begins with a welcome from Region 10 Advocate Jennifer Clark and introductions to the Office of Advocacy (also unheard of in 1962) by Chief Counsel Winslow Sargeant and Deputy Chief Counsel Claudia Rodgers. University of Washington President Michael K. Young will deliver the keynote, touching on commercialization of innovations.

Top billing also goes to the private sector innovators on the program, starting with the moderators, Jonathan Sposato and Rebecca Lovell of Seattle’s GeekWire.com. In an article on the GeekWire website, Sposato says when you love the startup scene so much that you want to breathe, eat, and sleep it, you can do two things—start a startup, which he has done, or write about it, which is what GeekWire is all about. “Alchemy can happen when veteran news journalists team with a serial geek,” he notes.

Seattle’s once futuristic Monorail, Space Needle, and Bubbleator are senior citizens now, celebrating their 50th anniversary. But if you want a glimpse of the next 50 years, sign up for Advocacy’s Seattle conference. And jog on by the Small Business Watchdog blog over the next few days for a look at the 21st century entrepreneurs on our program.

For more information and to register for Advocacy’s event, visit the website for Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation.

Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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Chief Counsel & Regional Advocate Participate in High-Tech Roundtable

August 8th, 2012 · Comments Off

Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant and clients of Teqcorner Innovation center on August 7.

Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant and clients of Teqcorner Innovation center on August 7.

On August 7, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant and Region III Advocate Ngozi Bell visited Teqcorner, a dynamic technology innovation business center in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia that houses and provides services to emerging technology businesses. Its innovative model provides small businesses, technology companies, and startup entrepreneurs with a “community office” approach. It offers flexible short-term lease options, as well as virtual office solutions including concierge services. It also supplies IT, support, and administrative services. The diverse range of businesses that utilize Teqcorner’s services range from one working out of garage and renting a desk there, to established companies with a national presence and a substantial payroll.

At the two-hour roundtable, Sargeant and Bell heard from business owners, investors, and developers associated with the entrepreneurship complex; they discussed business issues, barriers, and enablers from both a regulatory and policy standpoint. Their concerns included health care, access to capital, regulations, government contracting, and interacting with the government on small business issues. As a result of the roundtable, Advocacy learned about some new best practices and gathered helpful input on key business topics.

—Ngozi Bell, Region 3 Advocate

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Advocacy in Attendance at DHS’s Chemical Sector Security Summit

August 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off

 

Bruce Lundegren, assistant chief counsel at the Office of Advocacy, attended the Department of Homeland Security’s “Chemical Sector Security Summit 2012” conference at the Baltimore Convention Center on July 31st and August 1st.  This year’s event, co-sponsored by the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council, was a forum for chemical industry representatives as well as government employees, security consultants, and experts.  In addition to the general session covering the current security environment and future threat outlook, there were numerous breakout sessions on a broad array of topics such as implementation of CFATS (chemical facilities anti-terrorism standards), DHS’s proposed ammonium nitrate rule, interagency coordination, and threat identification and response.  One of the most interesting breakout sessions according to Mr. Lundegren was “Special Challenges at Small Chemical CFATS Facilities,” where small business representatives discussed their efforts to develop and implement site security plans as required by CFATS.  This was the sixth annual Chemical Sector Security Summit, and was widely attended by groups such as the Society for Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), Institute for Makers of Explosives, and others.  For additional information, please contact Bruce Lundegren at (202) 205-6144 or bruce.lundegren@sba.gov.

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