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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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

startup weekend 2

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.

leg

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

→ 2 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

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.

→ 2 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Where do you think America will be in 2062?

August 10th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Where do you think America will be in 2062?


Seattle_web_logo

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

→ 2 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

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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USPTO Publishes Proposed Rules Implementing First-Inventor-To-File Provisions of Patent Reform Law

August 2nd, 2012 · 1 Comment

 

On July 26, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) published proposed rules and proposed examination guidelines for the first-inventor-to-file provision of the America Invents Act (AIA).  The first-inventor-to-file provision of the AIA converts the United States from a “first-to-invent” to a “first-inventor-to-file” system. The proposed rules and examination guidelines amend the rules of practice to implement the conversion and provide guidance regarding the sections of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure related to novelty and obviousness.

Comments are due October 5, 2012, and may be submitted via http://www.regulations.gov/ or via email at fitf_rules@uspto.gov.

Background information on the issue is provided in the following documents:

The AIA micro-site offers additional information related to USPTO’s AIA implementation activities.

The Office of Advocacy’s contact on this issue is Jamie Saloom.

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What Is the Level of Availability and Coverage of Health Insurance in Small Firms?

July 31st, 2012 · 3 Comments

hypodermic and health chart 

The Office of Advocacy recently posted several new one-page explanations of Small Business Facts — detailed answers to questions about small business economics. One installment in the series deals with health insurance patterns in small firms, and explains three realities of the health insurance marketplace:

• Small firms are less likely than large firms to offer health insurance;

• The proportion of employees who participate in health insurance plans, if offered, varies little by firm size; and

• The uninsured are more likely to be in small firms.

Concise explanations of these facts, plus sources for additional health insurance data are found in the complete article.  More installments in the Small Business Facts series are available on Advocacy’s website.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics

Advocacy Recommends that the IRS Eliminate the Use-It-or-Lose-It Rule for Health FSAs

July 27th, 2012 · 1 Comment

7-27-12 Tax Form

On July 24, the Office of Advocacy recommended that IRS eliminate the “use-it-or-lose-it rule” for health flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Advocacy’s letter pointed out that the rule negatively affects small business employers offering health FSAs, and recent changes to tax law make it no longer necessary.

The rules currently require funds remaining in a health FSA at year end to be forfeited. Advocacy’s letter suggested that the IRS allow employers to give plan participants the choice of receiving the unused taxable cash or making a tax-deferred contribution to a 401(k) or other pension plan.

Advocacy’s fact sheet on the issue provides additional information.

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Do You Know Which Banks Make Small Business Loans in Your State?

July 20th, 2012 · 1 Comment

The Office of Advocacy’s latest small business lending report is a valuable small business tool because it tells you who is making small business loans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and most of the territories. Since there are several ways to measure lending, it’s not quite accurate to say any one lender is number one. So the report provides several rankings at the national and state levels.

The report provides useful information to small businesses interested in finding the banks with proven track records of providing loans in smaller amounts. And it is of interest to financial institutions looking for information about their small business lending performance relative to other institutions.

The rankings in Small Business Lending in the United States, 2010-2011, rely on the 2010 and 2011 Call Reports and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) reports, the most recent data available. Tables provide rankings of the lenders who made the most small business loans (under $1 million), macro business loans (between $100,000 and $1 million), and micro business loans (under $100,000). The two data sources each have different focuses. Call Reports are generated by all banks, and the CRA reports pertain to banks with more than $1 billion in assets. In addition, Call Report data are keyed to the institution’s headquarters location rather than the location of the lending activity. A significant amount of lending activity by large lending institutions takes place in states other than the one in which the headquarters is located. The CRA reports contain location-specific information as to where loans were made.

This invaluable reference can be found on the Advocacy website.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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Uncle Sam Wants You . . . To Help Improve Regulations!

July 19th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Cass Sunstein, the President's advisor on regulation and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wants business owners across the country to say which regulations are standing in their way.

Cass Sunstein, the President's advisor on regulation and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wants business owners across the country to say which regulations are standing in their way.

 

In January 2011, the President directed all executive agencies to undertake an unprecedented governmentwide review of regulations on the books, in order to figure out what is working and what is not, and where appropriate, to streamline or eliminate ineffective, overly burdensome, and outdated rules. Over two dozen agencies responded with regulatory reform plans, listing more than 800 initiatives.

In a follow-up to its January 2011 initiative asking agencies to review their regulations, the White House is reaching out further—to individuals and businesses of all sizes across America— with one question: What federal regulations are causing you problems?

To participate, visit the White House webpage called “Advise the Advisor,” where you’ll find an electronic feedback form. For your input to be most effective, give specific problems with rules, don’t just complain generally. And if you have alternatives or suggestions, definitely include those.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

“Small Business Facts” Debut on Website

July 17th, 2012 · 1 Comment

small business facts screenshot

Confused about terminology? Or the basic definitions used in small business statistics? The Office of Advocacy has launched a new series, “Small Business Facts,” to demystify key small business topics and explain terms that often cause confusion. These concise handouts will bring you up to speed on key information and issues.

Six Small Business Factsheets are now posted on the website:

• Startup rates;
• Which businesses create more jobs—New or existing businesses?
• What is the difference between self-employment, nonemployer businesses, and sole proprietorships?
• What factors affect business survival?
• Small business credit card financing; and
• What is the level of availability and coverage of health insurance in small firms?

The series is located at www.sba.gov/advocacy/7540/126001.

→ 1 CommentTags: Research & Statistics

High Tech Entrepreneurs Thriving in Gainesville, Florida

July 13th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Florida Innovation Hub at UF

Florida Innovation Hub at UF

 

It seems that you can’t go a day without hearing about the need for America to nurture its entrepreneurs. This mantra was quite abstract to me until I took a trip recently to Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida  (UF) and a host of impressive, innovative health, biotech and social media companies.

Gainesville?! That’s no Silicon Valley, you might say.  In fact, they are doing some very interesting things there, and they’re doing them right.  Gainesville is home to the Florida Innovation Hub, now located in a brand new multimillion dollar facility downtown. According to its website, “the Florida Innovation Hub was created to serve as catalyst for startup companies whose technologies emanated from laboratories at the University of Florida and throughout the state. [Its] mission is to provide them with the infrastructure, logistics and resources needed to get up and running effectively and efficiently. In doing so, the Innovation Hub hopes to help those companies and others bring research discoveries to the marketplace, creating additional jobs for Floridians.”

The Florida Innovation Hub houses over 20 startups, along with the University of Florida’s Office of Technology Licensing.  (The office is ably headed by David Day, assistant vice president and director.) Among its resident startups is Feathr, which has developed a smart phone application that replaces business cards with a seamless digital experience. Feathr makes it easy to share personal and professional information in a touch-optimized format. The app is currently in beta testing.

While the Hub building may be brand new, the StartUps Intiative at UF is 12 years old. One graduate of the StartUps Initiative, Sinmat, was recently recognized by President Obama at a White House event on Investing in Our Clean Energy Future. Sinmat manufactures products for the clean energy industry which are sold worldwide; it also has the distinction of being a recipient of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program funding. Coincidentally, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant designated the fledgling startup for funding when he served as an SBIR program manager in the 2000s. Sinmat now employs 22 people.

Another outstanding University of Florida partner in high tech commercialization is the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, also headed by Mr. Day.  This state-of-the-art biotech incubator is situated on a sprawling campus in Alachua, Florida, about 20 minutes from the university. There are currently seven startups in the center, and 20 companies have successfully “graduated” from their early days in the incubator. One particularly interesting resident is the biomedical company AxoGen. This startup is developing products to allow surgeons to repair and regenerate peripheral nerves more successfully, using tissue extracted from human cadavers. The company is revolutionizing peripheral nerve procedures based on scientific breakthroughs that reveal the mechanism of axon growth and regeneration.

 If you’re in the Gainesville area, I encourage you to schedule a visit to one or both of these University of Florida–affiliated incubators. You’ll learn amazing things, and you may even meet the founders of the next Google, Facebook, or Genentech. 

—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.

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Advocacy Recommends NOAA Conduct Further Analysis on Turtle Excluder Devices

July 12th, 2012 · Comments Off

On June 28, the Office of Advocacy submitted comments to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on a proposed sea turtle conservation rule imposing new shrimp trawling requirements.

Here are several excerpts from the letter, addressed to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator. The full text is available on the Office of Advocacy’s website.

“The Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (Advocacy) respectfully submits these comments to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding its proposed sea turtle conservation rule to require the use of turtle excluder devices in the nets of all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets rigged for shrimp fishing.

“Through a series of regional roundtables and meetings, Advocacy has conducted extensive outreach with small businesses operating in the southeastern U.S. shrimp fisheries that are concerned that the proposed rule will cause significant economic harm to the already fragile shrimping industry in the Gulf of Mexico.  Advocacy believes that further analysis of the  economic impacts of various alternatives to the proposed rule, as well as further study of the impact shrimping activities have on sea turtle populations, are warranted before NOAA finalizes new sea turtle conservation rules. 

“In light of the significant economic impact the proposed rule would have on small businesses in the commercial shrimping industry, as well as uncertainty regarding the cause of recent sea turtle strandings, Advocacy suggests that NOAA withdraw the proposed rule and re-open a comment period at a later date, when more data is available.”

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A YouTube Chat with the Chief Counsel

July 5th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Coffee with Dr Sargeant screenshot

In case you don’t have the chance to have coffee in person with Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, a Pittsburgh business nonprofit is offering a close approximation.  In a pleasant 10-minute Youtube chat, Dr. Sargeant discusses a range of topics as part of the business interview series, “Coffee with. . .,” sponsored by Pittsburgh’s Building Bridges for Business

In the conversation, which was posted July 1, Host Rebecca Harris quizzes Dr. Sargeant about the Office of Advocacy, and one of her favorite topics, growing women and minority-owned businesses. The two also discuss what it takes for a small business to create jobs.

The YouTube series is sponsored by Building Bridges for Business, a two-year-old nonprofit organization that supports small businesses in the Western Pennsylvania region by working to achieve “community economic integration.” This interesting organization seeks to make the necessary connections to give small businesses unprecedented access to required resources through increased awareness and identification of synergies.

—Rebecca Krafft, Editor

Another one of Building Bridges’s informative social media series is the monthly Tweetchat. The purpose of Tweetchat, #smallbizpgh on www.twitter.com, is to provide access to a subject matter expert who will answer questions online for free. Upcoming on July 10 will be a conversation with Region III Advocate Ngozi Bell.

Tweetchat screenshot

 

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

July 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Ah, summer—gardening time! Although since the dog tore up my first attempts at gardening a few years ago, I haven’t had the urge to get down in the dirt with a rototiller. But I do like locally grown fresh produce, and every year I purchase a season’s worth of weekly fresh vegetables from a local farm.

Sweetcorn And Tomato by Anna Langova

So when we were asked to include a chapter on “economic gardening” in Advocacy’s annual Small Business Economy research report a few years ago (the report is one of many ways Advocacy offers research to help small business), I envisioned fresh sweet corn, crisp sugar snap peas, and juicy strawberries. I soon learned that, as with most things economic, “economic gardening” has almost nothing to do with fresh vegetables. The chapter got written, and since then, I have joined an email group that circulates articles on economic gardening and related topics that is moderated by economic gardening founder Christian Gibbons.

It turns out, though, that economic gardening is linked to growth: it’s all about growing businesses, locally, from the ground up. When communities are looking for ways to add businesses and jobs, one traditional economic development approach puts all the eggs in the basket of attracting large behemoth businesses from outside. Instead, economic gardening uses a variety of sophisticated tools to cultivate local, in particular second-stage companies with growth potential—businesses that may be at a point when the ad hoc methods of entrepreneurial ventures are starting to fail.

Here are a few choice cuttings for your summer reading:

  • Economic Gardening came out of an idea in Littleton, Colorado and the concept has spread across the country, with support from the Edward Lowe Foundation.
  • Strategic Doing. Based at Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development in Indiana, Strategic Doing “enables people in loosely joined, open networks to think and act strategically. Instead of broad visions, they pursue measurable strategic outcomes.”
  • “Michigan’s second-stage companies are a mighty part of jump-starting the state’s economy.” An article on economic gardening in Michigan starts on p. 11:
  • On crowdfunding: “Rock the Post’s emphasis is on helping small businesses facilitate connections not only to funding, but also programmers, designers, and anyone else who can help get their idea off the ground.”
  • SoLoMoCo is a mobile internet company investing in four categories: Social media, Local ads, Mobile services, and Commerce platforms.
  • Economic gardening relies on good data. The focus in this blog post is on the impact of budgets on the scope and quality of the nonpartisan statistical information the Census Bureau provides.
  • While they may have much in common, there are significant differences between the concepts of entrepreneurship and small business, according to this definition.
  • This National League of Cities tool kit examines how local governments can support entrepreneurship and small business.
  • Harvest time: a growing movement in Columbia, Missouri focuses on entrepreneurial cultivation.

So as you crunch into delicious seasonal treats—butter-drenched local sweet corn and melt-in-your-mouth peaches—consider the gardeners—purveyors of sweet spring strawberries and local fast-growing businesses.

Enjoy!

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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Regulatory Alert: Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement

July 2nd, 2012 · 1 Comment

U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Requests Comments on Development of the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement

The federal government is starting the process of developing a new Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. By committing to common goals, the U.S. government will more effectively and efficiently combat intellectual property infringement. In this request for comments, the U.S. government, through the Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), invites public input and participation in shaping the Obama Administration’s intellectual property enforcement strategy. In the first section of the request, titled “Strategy Recommendations,” IPEC requests detailed recommendations from the public regarding specific recommendations for improving the U.S. government’s intellectual property enforcement efforts. In the second section titled “Threat Assessment,” IPEC seeks written submissions from the public regarding existing and emerging threats to the protection of intellectual property rights and the identification of threats to public health and safety and the U.S. economy resulting from intellectual property infringement. In the third section titled “Optional Questions,” IPEC seeks written submissions from the public to assist IPEC and agencies in the development of specific action items.  

Comments must be submitted by 5 pm on July 25, 2012. Please see the Notice of Request for Comments for further instructions for filing comments. 

iStock_Balancing_Lightbulb

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Nonemployer Data Swamps Employer Business Trends, According to Businessinsider.Com

June 29th, 2012 · Comments Off

Business Insider recently published an article drawing on data compiled by the Office of Advocacy to show an interesting caveat that applies to analyses of all businesses—nonemployers and employers combined. “In 2010,” the article reads, “21.7 million U.S. businesses were without employees, while only 5.6 million had them. At 79 percent of all American companies, the characteristics of non-employers swamp the overall data.”

Here’s the problem according to Business Insider:  “Combining the two businesses often leads to estimates that hide what’s going on in the economy. For instance, the number of people working for the average U.S. business declined from 4.8 in 1992 to 4.3 in 2009, suggesting that the size of American companies is shrinking.

“However, that trend is actually an anomaly of the increasing share of non-employers, which increased from 73.4 percent of U.S. companies in 1992 to 79.5 percent in 2010. Employer businesses have actually grown since the early 1990s, with average size of an employer business increasing from 18.2 to 19.9 between 1992 and 2009.”

Take a look at the full Business Insider article, and let us know what you think.

—Rebecca Krafft, Editor

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A Good Day for Delaware and Delaware Small Businesses as Governor Signs Executive Order 36

June 22nd, 2012 · 1 Comment

 Delaware EO 36 signing

Delaware’s 70,000 small businesses can now sleep a little easier, as a new executive order makes state regulations less burdensome. This is big news for Delaware. Small businesses represent 92 percent of Delaware employers and employ 170,000 workers, or 46.1 percent of all private sector jobs. They contribute significantly to Delaware’s real gross state product and help keep the state’s employment turnover on the positive side. And because of Executive Order 36, their future just got brighter!

Executive Order 36, titled “Review and Reform of State Agency Regulations,” was signed by Gov. Jack Markell on June 14. It formalizes the Markell administration’s support for Delaware small businesses.

Why is Executive Order 36 so important? And why are Delaware small businesses better off because of it? Executive Order 36 does for Delaware what the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) does for small businesses at a national level. The RFA, which Congress enacted in 1980, is a simple statute with a big impact! It requires agencies to consider the economic impact of a regulation on small businesses and consider less burdensome alternatives. The RFA statute deputizes the Office of Advocacy as the guardian of the RFA within the federal government. Implementation of the RFA has helped save small businesses billions of dollars in foregone regulatory compliance costs. In fiscal 2011 that number was a cool $11.7 billion.

So Delaware small businesses have a lot of good things to look forward to. For starters,
•  They will have an opportunity to be heard in the rulemaking process by commenting and contributing to the status of state regulations that affect them;
•  Regulations that are more than three years old are now subject to review, helping make Delaware an easier place to do business—one less burdened by regulatory clutter;
•  These changes will help make the state an even more business-friendly environment, much as the RFA does at the national level; and
•  As contributing partners in the state’s regulatory process, small businesses have the potential to influence the state’s regulatory culture, arming state regulators with an understanding of the economic and business impact of regulations, so they might routinely consider less burdensome alternatives to achieve desired regulatory goals.

As the Office of Advocacy, we congratulate the governor, his cabinet, the state legislators, stakeholders, and especially the small businesses themselves. As Advocate for Region III, which includes Delaware, I was especially impressed by the bipartisan effort of the Small Business Caucus and the state’s small business partners in laying the groundwork of this effort. Governor Markell has again reassured small businesses that what we all do in our efforts to support them is not lip service but a dedicated effort to build an environment that is conducive to their success.

—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.

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

Advocacy Solicitation for Economic Research Proposals Open through July 18

June 21st, 2012 · Comments Off

www.fbo.gov

On June 19, the Office of Advocacy’s Request for Quotations (RFQ) for economic research was posted on FedBizOpps.gov. These RFQs, described below, are for competitive contracts and are not research grants. The deadline for submitting proposals is Thursday, July 18, 2012, at 4 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Mountain).

There are several ways to view the proposals: They are listed in FedBizOpps. (If this link is not active, go to www.fbo.gov and search for Small Business Administration listings.) You may also view them on Advocacy’s webpage.

The following research solicitations are currently open:

SBAHQ-12-Q-0038         Veteran Businesses
SBAHQ-12-Q-0039         Internet Sales Taxation’s Impact on Small Business
SBAHQ-12-Q-0040         What Factors Lead Businesses without Employees To Hire Their First Employee?
SBAHQ-12-Q-0041         What Are the Respective Roles in Job Creation of New, Main Street and Fast Growing Businesses?
SBAHQ-12-Q-0042         Retail Price Impacts of DOE Appliance and Equipment Standards for Residential Products
SBAHQ-12-Q-0043         Small Business Tax Expenditures
SBAHQ-12-Q-0044         The Impact of Credit Scoring on Small Firms

Each issue area is described in the performance work statements on FedBizOpps. Respondents are required to follow all proposal submission instructions. Note that regular mail to government offices in Washington, D.C., experiences significant delays. Other methods, such as overnight and certified mail, are preferred and are more timely.

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

Solid Net Job Growth Seen Among Very Small Firms and Large Firms

June 18th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Advocacy has just published its Small Business Quarterly Bulletin with data through first quarter 2012. 

chart 4, employment change by firm size

While small firms with 20-499 employees provided three-quarters of the net employment growth since the end of the downturn, more recently, even the very small firms (fewer than 20 employees) and large firms (500 or more employees) showed solid net increases (Chart 4, above). Increases were driven by existing firms, as birth and death employment essentially netted each other out leaving little to no impact on the overall employment level. The decline in employment from births over the last decade has been accompanied by a corresponding decline in employment from deaths.

The number of births has risen since the end of the downturn and deaths have declined; when combined they are referred to as business churn. Business churn is needed to keep the economy from stagnating, and churn has been declining. However, the lower churn rate seems to follow the overall decline in the economy by about 18 months.

Overall, the small business trends are positive with the employment increases mentioned above, proprietors’ income up, and business bankruptcies trending down over the last few years.

—by Brian Headd, Economist

→ 3 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics

Got Weekend Plans?

June 14th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Startup Weekend front page

Can shouting out random words in a group of nearly 200 people help start a company?  That’s how the folks at Startup Weekend, a Seattle-based nonprofit, get attendees at their events to “warm up” for a weekend of rolling up your sleeves, getting down to business, and staying up all night to build a company around an idea.

By their own description, Startup Weekend organizes “54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups.” In just a few short years, Startup Weekend has held 587 of these events in 312 cities spanning 93 countries, resulting in a staggering alumni network of 56,000 entrepreneurs.   And businesses really are launched from these events.  According to their data, over 36 percent of Startup Weekend startups are still in operation after three months.  Almost 80 percent of participants want to continue to work with their team after the weekend concludes.  Those are some strong relationships developed in just 54 hours!

So, back to the shouting.  I had the pleasure of attending a Startup Weekend in Seattle to experience how the weekend works.  After a couple of opening remarks they get right to it.  Facilitators have attendees shout out whatever words come to mind.  Remember, there are roughly 200 want-to-be entrepreneurs in the room!  At first folks are a little timid but then the words start flying and get more entertaining as people loosen up and get into the exercise.  Nobody knows what’s going on or how the words will be used.  When the facilitators think they have all of the words they need, everyone counts off into teams of roughly 8 people.  So now you’re thrown in with a group of mostly strangers to complete an unknown task together.  One team member goes to the front of the room and circles two of the random words that were shouted earlier. Then you finally find out the task—to come up with a startup idea based on your two words, and be ready to present it in ten minutes.

Our words were “comedy” and “idol.” What kind of company can you create from that?! At first everyone looks at each other as if this is some kind of joke. But then the ideas start coming and the teams come up with really creative company pitches.  Our group pitched an app that enabled amateur standup comics to submit videos to be voted on for the chance to win a gig at a famous comedy club.

While these aren’t the ideas that ultimately get worked on over the weekend, the process puts the group into an action mode.  It shows the attendees it’s really possible to work with a team of unknowns to start a company.  Following the warm up exercise, a couple dozen teams form to work on real business ideas that participants come up with and vote on.  Local entrepreneurs act as mentors to the teams over the weekend. On Sunday night, the event wraps up as each team presents their company to a panel of local business experts.

Startup Weekend and nonprofits like it are filling an important role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  These organizations introduce entrepreneurs to potential co-founders and other business talent, nurture mentoring relationships with local entrepreneurs, and create networking opportunities with potential business partners and funders.  For nontraditional and innovative startups that may not yet qualify for bank loans, these connections can make the difference between starting a successful company or never getting off the sidelines.

These types of organizations are popping up all over the country.  Can you connect with one in your area?  What can both the public and private sector do to support their success and increase their impact on the startup community?  Interested in checking out a Startup Weekend for yourself?  With so many events planned, there’s bound to be one near you soon.

Startup Weekend isn’t alone in its mission to be the catalyst for entrepreneurial take-off. In Seattle, Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN) and the WBBA (Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association) are two others accelerating the growth of local startups. In Ohio there’s JumpStart and in Louisiana there’s Idea Village. A complete list would fill up several more blog posts.  New question: Who’s having an impact in the entrepreneurial ecosystem where you live?

—Jennifer Clark, Region X Advocate

Jennifer Clark is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

→ 1 CommentTags: State and Regional

IRS Requests Comments on Potential Modification of Use-or-Lose Rule for Health FSAs

June 12th, 2012 · 2 Comments

On May 30, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2012-40 to provide guidance on health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs).  Among other things, the IRS notice requests comments on the potential modification of the “use or lose rule” for health FSAs.  Currently, the use-or-lose rule prohibits any contribution or benefit under an FSA from being used in a subsequent plan year or period of coverage. Thus, unused amounts in the health FSA are simply forfeited at the end of the plan year.

Comments are due by August 17, 2012.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

New Executive Order Requires Public Participation in Agency Review of Regulations

June 8th, 2012 · Comments Off

On May 10, President Obama issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to publish a semiannual notice of significant regulations that have undergone review by each agency. E.O. 13610, “Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens,” is the latest in a series of executive orders and memoranda on the subject of regulatory review. The new executive order establishes public participation in regulatory review, setting priorities and accountability as mandatory elements of every agency’s regulatory process, which now must include review of significant regulations on an ongoing basis. “Public participation” must include a system for requesting and evaluating nominations of regulations in need of review.

The executive order requires that in establishing their review plans, agencies:

“shall give priority…to those initiatives that will produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens while protecting public health, welfare, safety, and our environment. To the extent practicable and permitted by law, agencies shall also give special consideration to initiatives that would reduce unjustified regulatory burdens or simplify or harmonize regulatory requirements imposed on small businesses.”

By requiring the agencies to publish reports on their review priorities on a semiannual basis and to make available relevant supporting data, the order seeks to make regular, ongoing regulatory review a permanent part of agency rulemaking.

—Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs

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Welcome to the West

June 6th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Colorado River
Across this nation, we have large and small; east and west; oceans, lakes and mountains; and people whose goals make us thrive, grow, and move forward. Our natural curiosity, creativity and desire to succeed has fostered an environment of small business growth over generations, back to our country’s founding. These small businesses built our great economy, and the economy in turn nurtures the growth of existing and new small businesses.

In the six states I cover as region VIII advocate for the Office of Advocacy—Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming—industries and small businesses proliferate. These are both traditional and enduring as well as incredibly innovative and pioneering (in a 21st–century sense). From agriculture, ranching, farming and mining to a meteoric growth in new energy development, the West is alive with small business culture and spirit.

Throughout my travels in these western states I have marveled at the unparalleled respect for this country’s natural assets. Not just the richness of land and soil, but lakes, streams, air, wind, sunshine and wildlife; all have a purpose and all should be protected and respected as our businesses continue to utilize them in this country’s natural economic growth. Attempts to exploit these resources should be met with balance, and preservation attempts ought to be encouraged.

Many of the small businesses I have met with hew to this philosophy, all the while crafting ingenious business models that portend great growth and opportunity. From the small business development culture at NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) in Denver, to the wind farm developments across Wyoming, North and South Dakota, there are tremendous opportunities at harvesting renewable energy resources and advancing seemingly unimaginable ideas from the stage of inventive inkling to practical solution.

Small business entrepreneurs are developing cooling mechanisms that use up to 90 percent less energy to cool buildings. They are also developing lighting solutions using direct sunlight and using little or no energy to do so. They are creating reactive windows that “know” when to darken to reflect unwarranted sunlight and heat, yet respond to colder outside climate to allow more heat inside. They are also utilizing more solar, wind, hydro- and geothermal technologies to provide energy and developing methods of extracting bio-fuels from agricultural products.

Much like respecting the balance of utilizing our natural resources, the balance between regulation and free range capitalistic exploitation is of paramount concern. As I travel and speak with small businesses about Advocacy’s role in representing all small business interests in the federal regulatory process I routinely extol regulations as protecting the public health and welfare and the need for these regulations to protect our resources against unwarranted abuse. The trick is finding that balance that will continue to allow for protection and advancement, exploitation and preservation.

Advocacy is listening.  We continue to build on the idea that regulations need small business input and continued examination. Small businesses want government to help foster these exciting advances in resource development yet understand what may warrant excessive intrusion into their business development philosophy. Advocacy helps relay small business concerns and issues to all parts of the federal government. Advocacy wants to help those pioneers and innovators out West and all over this country to continue on their imaginative course unwavering.

When viewing this nation’s history, there does not seem much that can contain our spirit, our growth and our need to seek further in education and advancement. T.E. Lawrence said, “I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state of a small city.” The West is a place defined by its great states and small cities; its small businesses and great aspirations. We will continue to grow and prosper, all the while finding our balance and making our states great.

—John W. Hart, Region VIII Advocate

John Hart is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

→ 2 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Comments Filed on Voluntary Consensus Standards and Incorporation by Reference

June 5th, 2012 · Comments Off

On June 1, the Office of Advocacy submitted comments on the Office of Management and Budget’s request for information on Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and In Conformity Assessment Activities. Advocacy also published a fact sheet summarizing the letter.

Also on June 1, Advocacy submitted comments on the Office of the Federal Register’s request for comments on the Petition for Rulemaking on “Incorporation by Reference” and the term “Reasonably Available” that was recently published in the Federal Register. A fact sheet summarizing it is available here.

If you have any questions regarding Advocacy’s position on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact Bruce Lundegren at 202-205-6144 David Rostker at 202-205-6966. For more information about the Office of Advocacy, please visit our website or telephone 202-205-6533.

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SBA Proposes Rules for Set-Asides for Multiple Award Contracts

May 31st, 2012 · Comments Off

On May 16, SBA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to address the use of set-asides on multiple award contracts and to clarify the regulations on bundling and contract consolidation. This proposed rule would amend SBA’s regulations to implement the following sections of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010: section 1311 (definition of multiple award contract); section 1313 (consolidation of contracts definitions, policy, limitations on use, determination on necessary and justified); and section 1331 (reservation and set-aside of multiple award contracts and orders against multiple award contracts for small businesses). SBA also is proposing  to amend the NAICS code appeal rules to permit challenges to NAICS codes on unrestricted procurements. SBA is proposing an amendment to the limitations on subcontracting to explain that the period of performance for each order issued against a multiple award contract will be used to determine compliance with the performance requirements.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted by SBA until July 16, 2012.

  • Proposed Rules from Federal Register
  • Submit comments on the final rule to SBA electronically (Docket No.: SBA–2011–011)
  • Advocacy contact: Major l. Clark or call 202 -205 -7150.
  • Regulations.gov, the Federal government’s one stop site to comment on Federal regulations.

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It’s All About Connections . . . So Get To Know KCSourceLink and USSourceLink

May 29th, 2012 · 3 Comments

We all know that startups, entrepreneurs, and small business owners have passion, an idea, and an incredible commitment to turn that idea into a reality. What they do not have is a lot of free time to find all the answers they need when it comes to starting, running, or building their business.

This month I attended a small business expo in Kansas City and took in a breakout session, “Access to Capital: A Banker’s Perspective.” Two bankers, one from a top six national bank, the other from a community bank, shared tips for small business owners. The Big Six banker started talking about the many Kansas City resources available to small business owners and recalled sitting in on a presentation about KCSourceLink, a web-based tool for small businesses. He was writing as fast as he could, trying to take down the resource partners being mentioned, when he realized he didn’t need to do that. He just needed to know how to reach KCSouceLink. He knew he could send his small business clients their way because KCSourceLink is connected with all the local resources a small business would need. Piece of cake!

Visual2

So, just who are KCSourceLink’s 175+ partner resource organizations? Well, KCSourceLink partners with angel groups like Women’s Capital Connection and incubators like the Enterprise Center of Johnson County. Other resources include more than a dozen economic development groups like Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation and a slew of business planning and training partners such as FastTrac national headquarters. Other partners offer expertise in procurement; research; assistance with taxes, permits, and regulations; networking and mentoring; technology assistance centers; and disaster planning and mitigation.

The online network tool was initially founded and fine-tuned in the greater Kansas City area via a partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the SBA, and the UMKC Henry Bloch School of Business and Public Administration. KCSourceLink is now flourishing as the Kansas City region’s premier resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs, linking startups, emerging and established businesses with non-profit organizations with the right service, at the right time.

But you don’t have to move to Kansas City to benefit from this streamlined collaborative tool; this online clearinghouse of resource partners has been replicated across the country via USSourceLink. Just this month, with newly inked agreements with the Greater Des Moines Partnership and State of Iowa Economic Development Authority, USSourceLink has now spread its wings to 20 networks in 17 states.

USSourceLinkMap cropped

And it’s not just individual businesses that benefit. A former Kansas City Chamber of Commerce person provided a great example of KCSourceLink’s unique value to the community as a whole. Kansas City’s sole micro loan program shut down a few years ago, leaving a void in the region. Potential partners were identified using the networks created via KCSourceLink. As a result, St. Louis–based Justine Petersen Housing and Reinvestment Corporation made their first westward expansion to the Kansas City region this spring. They have partnered with the Women’s Employment Network and the Women’s Business Center, and in just a few months, this micro lending collaboration has provided approximately $85,000 in loans to 15 small companies.

If you are fortunate enough to be located in a region currently being served, enter the USSourceLink door at www.ussourcelink.com. If you are a business looking for answers, click on your region and use the Resource Navigator button to locate the resources that are right for you. If you’re a nonprofit or other agency, you can enrich the experience for others by adding your organization as a resource provider.

If your region isn’t currently part of the USSourceLink system, ask your region’s economic development folks to look into joining his vibrant, collaborative system which helps communities strengthen their economic development initiatives. For information call 866.870.6500 or e-mail info@ussourcelink.com.

USSourceLink provides small business owners with easy access to the help they need, when they need it, at no cost to the business.

—Becky Greenwald, Region VII Advocate

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

→ 3 CommentsTags: State and Regional

SBA Announces National Small Business Week Video Contest Winners

May 24th, 2012 · 1 Comment

 

by Karen Mills, SBA Administrator

At the U.S. Small Business Administration, we have the great privilege to work with many amazing small business owners. Every day I see how small businesses are creating an economy built to last and living the American Dream. I wanted to share these great stories with everyone—so we asked small business owners to share their stories in a short video that demonstrates how their business benefited from the SBA and makes a difference in their local community. 

The response to SBA’s first video contest was incredible—we received over 100 submissions! It was a difficult process, but SBA selected four winners to participate in the Google + Hangout with me. Thanks to all contest participants for taking the time from your busy schedules to submit these outstanding videos. We look forward to highlighting all the videos on our website in the coming weeks.

Drum roll please…!

The winners of the 2012 National Small Business Week Video Contest:

KissTixx, Orem, Utah

Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo started KISSTIXX Lip Balm as a project in college.  They created a high quality SPF lip balm that was packaged in two compatible flavors, one for you and one for your special someone.  The two flavors would combine on contact creating a new flavor or experience when you kiss.  They have flavors like Fire & Ice that heat and cool the lips, Raspberry & Lemonade and Strawberry Daiquiri & Pina Colada.  As students they needed the help of the SBA to create product to meet the demand.  The SBA stepped up and now KISSTIXX gets inquiries all over the world.  They are currently negotiating deals with major retailers stateside and expanding the kissing experience into over 30 countries.  They were even able to convince celebrity billionaire Mark Cuban to financially back their company.  


Rodgers’ Banana Pudding Sauce; Chesapeake, Virginia

Reggie Rodgers is the Managing Director of R.R. Enterprise—better known as Rodgers’ Banana Pudding Sauce, located in Chesapeake, VA.  Reggie is a service-disabled veteran, serving 26 years with the Navy.  In his first year of business, Reggie and his family worked with their local Small Business Development Center in Chesapeake to learn the nuts and bolts of operating a business.  They are now in the process of applying for a Patriot Express Loan, after attending a military community workshop at an SBDC in Hampton, VA.


Rustic Crust; Pittsfield, New Hampshire

Brad Sterl is the CEO and Founder of Rustic Crust, Inc., manufacturer of the Rustic Crust brand of organic/all natural shelf stable pizza crusts that you top and bake at home and the American Flatbread brand of premium frozen pizza, hand-made and baked in a wood fired oven. Brad has always believed in “real food”—that is using real food to make great food with no chemicals or preservatives. Over the last seven years with the help of the New Markets SBA fund, the company was able to secure additional equity investments and loans to expand the facility, hire staff and grow the business.  In addition, the company has grown from inception to nearly $20 million in sales, selling to all 50 states and has grown the staff from 5 to over 70 in the underserved community of Pittsfield, NH.


The Fresh Diet; Miami, Florida

Zalmi Duchman is CEO & the Founder of The Fresh Diet. He began operations on January 1, 2006, with 3 clients in Miami, FL. Today, The Fresh Diet has become the largest US food producer in the fresh cooked, daily delivered category—which is now delivering meal plans to thousands of clients nationwide. The Fresh Diet operates 6 commissaries & employs 225 full time employees and 112 drivers.  Zalmi & The Fresh Diet have used 2 SBA 7A loans for acquisitions to help fuel the growth.

To learn more about the contest and to view eligible submissions, visit smallbizvid.challenge.gov.

→ 1 CommentTags: State and Regional

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of May 21

May 21st, 2012 · Comments Off

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy posts a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House is in recess this week.  The Senate’s main business this week is the Food and Drug Administration’s prescription-drug user fee reauthorization.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Full Committee Oversight Hearing
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing on a report produced by the American Energy Innovation Council titled “Catalyzing American Ingenuity: The Role of Government in Energy Innovation.”
Date: Tuesday, May 22, 10 a.m.
Place: 366 Dirksen Bldg.
Panel: Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.
Panel: Ethan Zindler, head of policy analysis, Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Jesse Jenkins, director, Energy and Climate Policy Issues, Breakthrough Institute, Oakland, Calif.
Website: http://energy.senate.gov

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee
Full Committee Oversight Hearing
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold an oversight hearing on efforts to overhaul the regulation of derivatives, focusing on the steps the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission are taking to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, and their efforts to reduce systemic risk and improve market oversight. The session also will review the $2 billion JPMorgan Chase trading loss, which is being investigated by the SEC and the FBI.
Date: Tuesday, May 22, 10 a.m.
Place: 538 Dirksen Bldg.
Witnesses Scheduled: Mary Schapiro, chairwoman, Securities and Exchange Commission
Gary Gensler, chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Website: http://banking.senate.gov

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
Full Committee Hearing
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Seamless Transition: Review of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.”
Date:  Wednesday, May 23, 10 a.m.
Place: 216 Hart Bldg.
Note: Originally scheduled for May 16.
Website:           http://veterans.senate.gov/

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Asian-Pacific Immigrants, Yesterday and Today

May 18th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Advocacy staffers at a California roundtable in May.

Advocacy staffers at a California roundtable in May.

Since 1992, the United States has recognized May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, celebrating the culture and history of Asian-Pacific Americans.

My family’s American experience began with my grandfather, who emigrated from China in the 1920s. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act had prohibited most Asians from immigrating to this country. Only a limited number of merchants, missionaries, or students were allowed.

Soon after settling here, my grandfather opened a Chinese bakery in New York. He had help from his fellow sojourners, my uncles and aunts who had only known of each other through a common ancestral village in China. They also started their American dream as business entrepreneurs.

Due to exclusionary practices at the time, they would build their business capital by pooling together everyone’s resources to support each others’ businesses. My grandaunt was so successful with her supermarket business that she eventually started a community bank in California’s central valley to help women and minorities start businesses.

Today, those discriminatory practices are no longer tolerated. But the CAN DO entrepreneurial spirit remains strong through subsequent generations of immigrants. Like earlier enterprising immigrants, today’s new Americans continue to make strong contributions to the U.S. economy.

According to the Office of Advocacy’s new study, Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners, and their Access to Financial Capital, immigrants are more likely to start or own a business than non-immigrants. One out of four engineering and technology firms started over a 10-year period was founded by an immigrant. These firms generated $52 billion in sales and employed over 450,000 people in 2005 alone. One past study showed that in Silicon Valley, the U.S. capital of innovation, one-quarter of all technology businesses were run by engineers from India or China.

While their innovative contributions are well documented, many entrepreneurial immigrants still face barriers trying to live and operate their businesses here. In several roundtables hosted by Advocacy this month, many business-owning immigrants shared their experiences of trying to obtain the necessary visas to live and work here. From their perspective, the U.S. immigration system should be designed to welcome entrepreneurial immigrants whose innovative talents help advance U.S. technology and contribute to economic growth. In practice however, current visa programs’ rules and regulations have discouraged enthusiastic inventors and innovative immigrants from making their homes here. The application and adjudication process is so lengthy, duplicative, and confusing that it has forced many talented immigrants to take their innovative businesses back to their home countries.

An attendee of one of Advocacy’s hosted roundtables had just learned her work visa had been denied for the final time by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She has been working in a major high tech company on an H1B visa; she has Ph.D.s in international marketing and computer science from Stanford and Oxford Universities. With a friend, she founded a web-based wedding planning business, and put her technology and marketing talents into building the company as its VP of marketing. Her immigration attorney petitioned for a new visa. But after two years of trying to respond to the adjudicator’s numerous requests for evidence (RFE), her application was rejected for the third and final time. Existing USCIS approval rules require a bachelor’s degree for positions like hers. Despite her advanced degrees, she was deemed “unqualified” for the position, thus her work visa was denied. Her startup company will likely shut down without her. A dozen employees are expected to lose their jobs.

What Advocacy heard in our roundtables is that stories like this are not unique. Thousands of other immigrant innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs have experienced similar things.

That’s why Advocacy is here—to represent the voice of small businesses. And relief is coming. The USCIS initiated the Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) program last fall to improve its employment visa programs. And the White House just announced a new STEM visa program to help individuals with promising, innovative talents in science, technology, engineering, and math fields to remain in the United States. Stay connected with us, and stay tuned.

—Yvonne Lee, Region IX Advocate

Yvonne Lee is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas.

Advocacy staffers at site visit in California

Advocacy staffers at site visit in California

→ 2 CommentsTags: State and Regional

Comments on Incorporation By Reference (IBR) of private technical standards Due June 1

May 17th, 2012 · Comments Off

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is requesting public input on issues related to Incorporation By Reference (IBR) of private technical standards and conformity assessment activities and whether and how to amend OMB Circular A-119 (Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities). This request for information is in addition the request for comments on a petition to the Office of the Federal Register on Federal Register regulations governing the approval of agency requests to incorporate material by reference into the Code of Federal Regulations.

Comments on both requests are due by June 1, 2012.

Submit Comments to the Office of the Federal Register Electronically (Docket ID NARA-12-0002)

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

Proposed Changes to Size and Eligibility for Small Business Innovation and Research Program

May 16th, 2012 · Comments Off

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) proposes to amend its regulations governing size and eligibility for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs.    The proposed rule addresses ownership, control and affiliation for participants in the SBIR and STTR Programs. This includes participants that are majority owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, private equity firms or hedge funds. 

Comments are due by July 16, 2012.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics

NOAA Proposes Rules Requiring Shrimp Boats to use Turtle Excluder Devices

May 15th, 2012 · Comments Off

turtle_ted_noaaOn May 10, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed rules to withdraw the alternative tow time restriction and require all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls) rigged for fishing to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their nets. The intent of this proposed rule is to reduce incidental bycatch and mortality of sea turtles in the southeastern U.S. shrimp fisheries, and to aid in the protection and recovery of listed sea turtle populations.   Public hearings on the proposed rule will be held in May and June 2012. See the Federal Register notice below for meeting dates, times, and locations.

 Comments are due by July 9, 2012.

  • Notice of Proposed Rule from the Federal Register
  • You may submit comments on this proposed rule, identified by 0648-BC10, by any of the following methods:
    •  Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.
    • Mail: Michael Barnette, Southeast Regional Office, NMFS, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
    • Fax: 727-824-5309; Attention: Michael Barnette.

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Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes 4(d) Special Rule for the Polar Bear

May 14th, 2012 · Comments Off

polar bears from fwsOn April 19, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a special rule under authority of section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act with respect to the conservation of the polar bear. This proposed 4(d) special rule, in most instances, synchronizes the management of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act with management provisions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

Comments are due on or before June 18, 2012.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Think Biology 101

May 11th, 2012 · Comments Off

An “entrepreneurial ecosystem” is more than a buzzword, it’s the coordination of like-minded entities, individuals, or institutions to form a network to help create, grow, and sustain business development. Understanding and sustaining the ecosystem is critical for the long-term viability of both businesses and the broader community.

“An entrepreneurial ecosystem? Reminds me of biology class,” one my colleagues commented.

Well, yes, that’s a great comparison. And like biology, we should not isolate individual parts, but consider how the individual components relate to the broader system. Sticking with the biology analogy, we wouldn’t try to prevent a heart attack by simply taking aspirin, right? We would instead assess our overall lifestyle patterns, making necessary adjustments to our diet, stress levels, exercise routine, etc. Cultivating a business environment is no different—you are assessing and strengthening a system, loosely characterized by accessibility to: mentors, knowledge centers, like-minded partners (leadership), capital, workforce (talent), and the desirability of the city, town, or place in which you operate.

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to both practice and study ecosystem formation in rural and urban areas. What I discovered is that some cities have utilized entrepreneurship as a redevelopment tool. These cities created an entrepreneurial movement by coupling engaged entrepreneurs with implementation-oriented entities; together they transformed their local economies.

For example, New Orleans went from being a declining urban economy to a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity because it embraced an ecosystem approach—addressing such things as place-based development, public-private partnerships, and access to capital. The city connected all the dots under the banner of entrepreneurship.

In fact, entrepreneurial thinking is slowly becoming part of the local culture and workforce. The work of organizations like IDEA Village has been pivotal (described in depth in an MIT journal article). And more recently, Tulane University has taken big strides in creating a multidisciplinary entrepreneurial curriculum that focuses on the triple bottom line, accounting for companies’ social, economic, and environmental impact. Tulane graduates now include entrepreneurs who specialize in launching businesses that return profits to both the company and the local community. Entrepreneurship is slowly becoming habitual and is now celebrated annually during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW), just like JazzFest and Mardi Gras.

New Orleans isn’t the only city that has figured out how to connect the dots. Cleveland, Boulder, St. Louis, and Philadelphia are just a few examples of cities that have reinvented themselves through entrepreneurship. In fact, I was recently invited to attend the first Business Development Week in Beaumont, Texas. I was blown away by the array of partnerships, the topics covered, the varied demographics of the participants, and the amount of energy and enthusiasm generated for entrepreneurship and for Beaumont itself during this one week. Hopefully, Beaumont will also be able to sustain the ecosystem it has only just started to foster.

Without a doubt, urban planners, economic developers, nonprofit leaders, business executives and now policymakers are beginning to understand the interconnectedness of ecosystem networks and community growth. This sort of awareness, coupled with longer-term vision, is all the more important as we consider how these networks must constantly evolve to meet the needs of the community.

Government tools have traditionally responded to specific impediments that affect the entrepreneurial environment—addressing discrete challenges associated with a particular industry, such as access to capital, workforce, infrastructure, taxes, or other policy. But if we are to transform entrepreneurial landscapes, it will only make sense if government’s role evolves from managing individual parts to supporting the broader system. In recent efforts like Startup America, government played the role of convener, bringing together entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and public-private partnerships to brainstorm solutions to sustain and accelerate small business growth. (The Office of Advocacy took part in several Startup America roundtables on reducing barriers to entry and the like.)

But what other roles can government play to evolve with the changing landscape?  Tune into this discussion by following us on here and Twitter. Or post some of your own crazy ideas on how we can best construct entrepreneurial ecosystems.

—Caitlin Cain, Region VI Advocate

Caitlin Cain is the Office of Advocacy’s regional advocate for Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Prior to her work with Advocacy, she practiced economic development in New Orleans and surroundings for a decade.

Comments OffTags: State and Regional

Would Reforming Export Controls Affect Your Business?

May 10th, 2012 · Comments Off

The President’s Export Council, Subcommittee on Export Administration (PECSEA) has developed a survey on the impact of export controls and priorities for export reform. This is an opportunity for small firms to make their voices heard on the important issue of export controls and reform.  The survey is designed to take only 15 minutes to complete.  The council intends to provide recommendations related to export reform and the impact that export controls have on U.S. exporters. The council states that the survey tool is anonymous and providing contact information in the survey response is optional; responses should include only information that is not proprietary or business sensitive.

One response per company, to be completed by June 1, 2012.

PECSEA is a federal advisory committee that provides advice on matters pertinent to those portions of the Export Administration Act, as amended, that deal with United States policies of encouraging trade with all countries with which the United States has diplomatic or trading relations and of controlling trade for national security and foreign policy reasons.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics

The Time for Innovation-Friendly Policies Is Now, Key Companies Say

May 9th, 2012 · Comments Off

“Innovation” is the buzzword of 2012. So it makes perfect sense that hosting a conference in Washington, D.C., to talk about innovation would coincide with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner tour. The Atlantic Innovation Summit took place on Tuesday May 8th at Ronald Reagan National Airport, pulling together some of the most notable figures in business.

Throughout the day, speakers touched on the various methods of achieving innovation and keeping the United States the top destination for entrepreneurs. Jim McNerney, Boeing’s CEO, highlighted the need for the government to invest in the early stages of research and education. This has become critical in light of the skills gap many technology companies now face; although they are oriented toward growth, the companies cannot find workers with the skills necessary to fill the jobs they want to create.

McNerney was not alone. Samuel Palmisano, chairman of IBM, spoke bluntly about the need for a revamped immigration policy. He and McNerney shared the view that it is not just the large corporations that are suffering, but also the small businesses that they rely on to supply parts, services, and information to their companies. It was evident throughout all the discussions that our country has done a great job in getting the brightest minds in the world to attend our universities and fuel our higher education. However, once these foreign students graduate, they are in many cases forced to leave, taking their valuable portfolios of skills and knowledge with them.

Google’s chief technology advocate, Michael Jones, was very frank in this regard. He felt strongly that U.S. policy needs to be changed to encourage these incredible minds to stay and start businesses in the United States. If we can get them to start businesses and encourage American citizens to acquire the education needed to close the skills gap, he predicted that our economy would flourish.

Overall, the day was filled with incredible interviews and inspiring panels highlighting the varied reasons why the United States needs to get out in front of the innovation wave. The message came through loud and clear: implementing innovation-friendly policies will allow small businesses to grow and create the economic momentum our country so strongly desires.

—Erik Gulbrandsen, Special Assistant

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Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of May 7

May 8th, 2012 · Comments Off

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy posts a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week. On Tuesday, the Senate will take a procedural vote on legislation dealing with student loan interest rates.   The House will consider legislation to block the budget “sequester” and replace it with a different set of cuts.  Also, House leaders reached agreement on legislation to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank; a floor vote is planned. The House will also bring the fiscal 2013 Commerce-Justice-Science bill to the House Floor.   The House-Senate conference begins on the surface transportation reauthorization.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, May 9th

9:00 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Energy and Power Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings titled “The American Energy Initiative.”
Location: 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda: HR 4273 — Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2012
Draft Bill — Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “Rising Regulatory Compliance Costs and Their Impact of the Health of Small Financial Institutions,” focusing on the impact of provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act (PL 111-203) relating to the regulation of lending and investment activities of small banks.
Location: 2128 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://financialservices.house.gov

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing  
House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Effects of High Gasoline Prices on Small Businesses.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Witnesses: Jamie Smith, franchisee, Mr. Rooter Plumbing, Baltimore, Md.
Robert McNally, president, Rapidan Group LLC, Bethesda, Md.
C. Cookie Driscoll, owner, C. Cookie Driscoll Inc., Fairfield, Pa.
Webcast: http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

Thursday, May 10th    

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
International Monetary Policy and Trade Panel of House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Costs and Consequences of Dodd-Frank Section 1502: Impacts on America and the Congo.” Focusing on the consequences of requiring Securities and Exchange Commission registrants to provide disclosures about the use of minerals from the Congo region.
Location: 2128 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://financialservices.house.gov

Comments OffTags: Uncategorized

Internet Sales Tax Proposal Discussion

May 7th, 2012 · 3 Comments

On May 3, Advocacy hosted a small business roundtable meeting on the taxation of Internet sales. Small business owners and representatives and Capitol Hill staffers participated.

The debate over whether and how to tax Internet commerce goes back over a decade. Some small business stakeholders contend that it is unfair that brick-and-mortar businesses (i.e., those with a physical location) must be responsible for collecting and remitting sales taxes while many online retailers do not share this same requirement. These small business representatives want a level playing field where online retailers would also have to collect and remit sales tax.

Other small business stakeholders have expressed concern about the disproportionate burden that small online retailers would face in comparison to large online retailers if Internet merchants were required to collect and remit sales taxes. This group recommends that policymakers and legislators consider exempting small online retailers from Internet sales tax requirements.

Policy groups and legislators have tried to develop a national taxation policy for online retailers that is both fair for all retailers and not overly burdensome for small business. At the May 3 roundtable, Capitol Hill staffers from the offices of Senators Mike Enzi, Dick Durbin, and Lamar Alexander discussed some proposed legislative efforts, including the Marketplace Fairness Act, S. 1832. The Act would make it easier for states to collect sales tax on online sales, giving states broad authority to require online merchants to collect and remit sales taxes. The bill would exempt sellers who made less than $500,000 in total remote sales in the year preceding the sale from being required to collect sales tax.  Much of the roundtable discussion centered on the appropriate size of such an exemption.

More detail on the proposal is available in the November 2011 press release announcing the bill.

The Capitol Hill staffers welcomed feedback about the legislation and the proposed exemption. Feel free to leave your comments here.

—Dillon Taylor, Assistant Chief Counsel

→ 3 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

If Exporting Is Such a Good Deal, Why Isn’t Your Company Doing It?

May 4th, 2012 · 3 Comments

During President Obama’s January 2012 State of the Union Address, the president discussed progress of the National Export Initiative. The program, begun in 2010, aims to double America’s exports by 2014. To help reach this goal, the Obama administration added 20 percent to the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration budget, which now totals $540 million. The administration also increased the budget of the U.S. Export-Import Bank from $4 billion to $6 billion.

This is a commitment that is important to small businesses. Only about 8 percent of America’s 27.9 million small businesses export goods or services; and of those that export goods, 58 percent export to only one country.

The opportunity is clear. At the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Business Summit in March, former U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Dennis Hightower cited an impressive figure: for every $188,000 in exports, one new American job is created. The Commerce Department data from 2008 also show that one out of 20—or 6 million American jobs—depend on manufactured exports. Export-related jobs also pay an estimated 13 to 18 percent more than the U.S. average. This is important because it is estimated that 95 percent of the world purchasing market resides outside of these United States.

So why aren’t more small businesses exporting? I think it’s because they simply don’t know where to start. I recently attended the Gulf States Alliance 2012 Annual Export Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi, and learned more about the ins and outs of exporting than I had ever known. Presentations were made by several agencies, all geared toward making the leap to exporting as easy as possible. The presenters included representatives from the SBA’s Office of International Trade, the Commerce Department’s Commercial Service and Export Assistance Centers, and the Mississippi Development Authority. Consular officials from Canada and several Caribbean and Latin American countries also presented.

I never knew that so much assistance is available for small businesses that are considering exporting.

So there you have it: Make some phone calls, send some emails, and make a plan to start increasing your company’s sales and profits by exporting. Here’s where to start:

•  U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration
•  U.S. Export Assistance Centers
•  U.S. Commercial Service
•  SBA Office of International Trade
•  U.S. Export-Import Bank
•  Small Business Exporters Association

—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.

Thanks to the National Small Business Association, for export data and info.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Immigrant Businesses Start with More Capital than Others Do

May 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off

Immigrants make a significant contribution to business ownership and formation, according to a new study from the Office of Advocacy.  Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners, and their Access to Financial Capital found that 10 percent of immigrants own a business. Nearly 20 percent of immigrant-owned businesses started with $50,000 or more in startup capital, compared to 15.9 percent for non-immigrant-owned business. The study uses data from the 2007 U.S. Survey of Business Owners and the 1996-2010 Current Population Survey.

“Immigrant entrepreneurs are essential to our nation’s growth and economic prosperity,” said Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant. “Immigrant entrepreneurs make our nation more competitive and serve as reminders of the American dream.”

The most common source of startup capital for immigrant-owned businesses is personal or family savings, with roughly two-thirds of businesses reporting this source of startup capital. Other commonly reported sources of startup capital by immigrant-owned businesses are credit cards, bank loans, personal or family assets, and home equity loans. Overall, the sources of startup capital used by immigrant-owned businesses do not differ substantially from those used by non-immigrant-owned firms. 

Startup Capital Distributions for Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Owned Firms (Percent)

Special Tabulations from the Survey of Business Owners (2007)

Amount of Startup Capital

All Firms

Immigrant

Non-Immigrant

Hispanic Immigrant

Asian Immigrant

No startup capital

23.5

22.0

23.8

25.2

17.3

Less than $5,000

33.7

29.7

35.3

34.8

22.8

$5,000 to $9,999

9.2

10.1

9.2

12.0

8.8

$10,000 to $24,999

9.8

11.1

9.6

10.9

12.5

$25,000 to $49,999

6.4

7.6

6.2

6.7

9.6

$50,000 to $99,999

6.1

7.4

5.7

4.8

10.5

$100,000 to $249,999

5.8

6.9

5.4

3.4

10.7

$250,000 to $999,999

3.9

4.1

3.6

1.8

6.0

$1 million or more

1.6

1.2

1.2

0.4

1.7

Notes: (1) All firms includes publicly held firms. (2) Excludes non-responding firms and owners reporting “don’t know” for level of startup capital.
Source: Robert Fairlie, Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners, and their Access to Financial Capital, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, May 2012, http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/7540/141841, p. 17.

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

The Small Business Economy, 2011

May 1st, 2012 · Comments Off

Quarter by quarter, small busi­nesses with fewer than 500 work­ers continued to outperform large firms in net job creation three out of four times from 1992 through 2010, when private-sector employ­ment rose, according to data in the latest edition of The Small Business Economy.

The newest edition is formatted to improve the accessibility of the data in an online series of tables on small business in the economy and small business financing. This rich collection of information about small business contributions to the economy and trends over time is offered this year, for the first time, in tabular form online in place of the paperback report.

The latest years covered in this summary were challenging for small businesses, as the economy recovered from the recent reces­sion. Section A documents various aspects of small business partici­pation in the American economy. Many economic indicators began to show positive improvement in the months following the end of the recession.

The Office of Advocacy also tracks small business financ­ing trends in The Small Business Economy. This year the key finan­cial data in Section B track trends such as movements in interest rates, credit market borrowing by busi­nesses, their sources and uses of funds, finance company borrowing, initial public offerings of common stock, and venture capital.

Overall, the period covered in the report shows improvement over the previous period, as small firms increasingly started up, cre­ated jobs, and stimulated economic growth.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

Nurturing an Innovation/Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

April 26th, 2012 · 1 Comment

On April 19 and 20, I attended the University of Virginia (UVa) Venture Summit, a signature event that brings together innovative researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors. The event explored the idea that startups thrive on the relationships they foster in a robust ecosystem richly endowed with innovative research, access to funding and investors, and the sheer entrepreneurial will to create, do something new, or make some existing thing better!

One panel that elicited enthusiastic participation from startups was titled “Innovation: A New Day in the U.S.” On the dais were a venture capitalist (Stephan Dolezalek of VantagePoint Capital Partners); the federal government’s former chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra; and UVa’s innovation and research director, Mark Crowell. The panel explored how startups thrive and grow, become employers, and stay relevant.

Among the many compelling and interesting points were these four:

1. Making use of innovation is key. Kodak’s recent bankruptcy is a case in point. After inventing the digital camera in 1975, Kodak walked away from the technology and was ultimately overtaken by its competitors.

2. Superstars take a long time to emerge. Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell, once commented that if Apple were his company, he would shut it down and give investors back their money (back when Dell was the wunderkind and Apple bounced between hits and misses). It’s all about staying power.

3. Fostering long-term entrepreneurship means inventing the fundamentals before the applications. What does this mean? Well, without computers, the Internet, and smart phones, there would be no e-commerce, social networking, or innovations like Facebook, Google, and Shazam.

4. To achieve long-term job creation and innovation, the model for success must fundamentally change. At the corporate level, overemphasis on quarterly earnings can run counter to job creation and even pioneering new firms. As venture capitalist Stephan Dolezalek facetiously theorized: When the goal of your business model is to sell the company for $1 billion, at a value of $77 million per employee (implying low job creation), job growth will not be the focus.  Fundamentally, job growth requires a different mindset and a different set of parameters. Put differently, to cultivate startups as job engines, we might have to grow different types of companies.

What will it take to get back to pioneering new firms and growing jobs through startups? The answer lies in the way we utilize the tools we have: education, entrepreneurship, investment, immigration policy, taxation, corporate governance, and intellectual property rights. How we use these tools will determine whether U.S. startups build the economy we want and need.

—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.

→ 1 CommentTags: State and Regional

Department of Justice to Hold Webinars on Accessible Means of Entry and Exit for Existing Pools

April 25th, 2012 · Comments Off

 

The Department of Justice is announcing free webinars that will provide information and technical assistance addressing the accessible pool entry requirements of the revised 2010 ADA Regulations and the 2010 ADA Standards as they relate to existing pools.

  • The first webinar will be May 2, 2012, from 2:30 – 3:45 EDT, and it will address the pool access provisions as they apply to the existing pools of public accommodations subject to title III of the ADA.
  • The second webinar will be May 9, 2012, from 2:30 – 3:45 EDT, and it will address how the pool access provisions apply to the existing pools of state and local governmental entities subject to title II of the ADA.

Registration
Registration opened Tuesday, April 24, 2012, at 3 pm EDT. 
To register, go to the ADA webinar webpage.
Registration is limited and available on a first-come-first-serve basis.  
Each webinar will also be archived and available for rebroadcast on www.ADA.gov a few days after each event.

Submission of Questions
Questions pertaining to the application of the regulations to existing pools may be submitted in advance of each webinar beginning with the opening of registration on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. There will also be a limited opportunity for registrants to submit questions during each webinar. 

Please note:  The Department is unable to entertain any questions about its pending rulemaking.

To learn more about the ADA you may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at http://www.ADA.gov.

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Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of April 23

April 24th, 2012 · Comments Off

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy posts a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week with the appropriators of both chambers continuing to work on spending bills.  The House plans votes on a handful of cybersecurity bills and may vote to go to conference on a highway bill. The Senate spends the early part of the week on a bill to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service and a disapproval resolution regarding an NLRB rule on union elections.

Advocacy Director of Interagency Affairs Charles Maresca testifies at a subcommittee hearing on “How the Report on Carcinogens Uses Science to Meet its Statutory Obligations, and its Impact on Small Business Jobs” on April 25 at 10am.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, April 24th  

4:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing   
House Energy and Commerce will mark up pending legislation and consider reconciliation recommendations to the budget committee.
Location: 2322 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda: Draft Bill- Gasoline Regulations Act
Draft Bill- Strategic Energy Production Act
H Con Res 112- Fiscal 2013 House Budget Resolution
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

Wednesday, April 25th

9:00 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Aviation Subcommittee of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing titled “A Review of Aviation Safety in the United States.”
Location: 2167 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://transportation.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing  
House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up pending legislation and consider reconciliation recommendations to the budget committee.
Location: 2322 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda: Draft Bill- Gasoline Regulations Act
Draft Bill- Strategic Energy Production Act
H Con Res 112- Fiscal 2013 House Budget Resolution
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing  
Healthcare and Technology Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee and Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a joint hearing titled “How the Report on Carcinogens Uses Science to Meet its Statutory Obligations, and its Impact on Small Business Jobs.”
Location: 2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Witnesses:
Panel 1: Linda S. Birnbaum, director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, Department of Health and Human Services
Charles Maresca, Office of Advocacy, Small Business Administration
Panel 2: James S. Bus, director of external technology, Toxicology and Environmental Research and Consulting, The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich.
Bonnie Webster, vice president, Monroe Industries Inc., Avon, N.Y.
John E. Barker, corporate manager for environmental affairs, safety and loss prevention, Strongwell Corp., Bristol, Va.
Richard B. Belzer, president, Regulatory Checkbook
Webcast: http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

Thursday, April 26th   

9:00 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing titled “Regulation of the Maritime Industry: Ensuring U.S. Job Growth While Improving Environmental and Worker Safety.”
Location: 2167 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://transportation.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Agriculture, Energy and Trade Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Small Business Innovators: On the Cutting Edge of Energy Solutions.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee of House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “International Patent Issues: Promoting a Level Playing Field for American Industry Abroad.”
Location: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov/

Friday, April 27th

9:15 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee of House Judiciary Committee will hold a series of hearings on the E-Verify system used by employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees.
Location: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov/

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Reg Alert—Time to Comment on Changes to Rules on Eagle Permitting

April 23rd, 2012 · Comments Off

banded bald eagleOn April 13, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to revise the regulations for permits for nonpurposeful take of golden eagles and bald eagles. The term “nonpurposeful,” means it is associated with, but not the purpose of, an activity. FWS proposes to extend the maximum term for programmatic permits to 30 years and charge an application processing fee.  The fee would be sufficient to offset the estimated costs associated with working with the applicants to develop site plans and conservation measures, prepare applications, and review applications. For any project that is deemed likely to take eagles, the FWS also proposes to collect an additional administration fee when it grants a permit. 

 Comments are due by May 14; they may be submitted on Regulations.gov. Advocacy’s contact on this matter is Assistant Chief Counsel Kia Dennis, Kia.Dennis@sba.gov

To Learn More

•  The Fish and Wildlife Service Press Release.
•  The Office of Advocacy’s Environmental Regulatory Alerts.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

New York City Industry and Transport Firms See Obstacles—and Openings

April 20th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Seems everyone’s clear that getting America back to work is the number one priority. And small businesses are the key to making that happen. Small businesses, the engine of our economy, are continuing to not only create jobs, they also drive growth and fuel innovation. I recently participated in the NYC Business Solutions Industrial and Transportation Quarterly Leadership Committee meeting, where business owners and leaders identified their most pressing challenges and discussed how to tackle them. NYC Business Solutions is a set of free services offered by the city’s Department of Small Business Services to help businesses start, operate, and expand in New York City.

At the meeting, the committee looked at the broad landscape of issues affecting the local industrial manufacturing and transport industries. The issues that dominated the conversation included:

•             Finding quality, qualified, and motivated job seekers;
•             The impact of various restrictions under the new Hours-of-Service-of-Drivers rules, which have created a need to hire more drivers;
•             Contracting with government;
•             Identifying new exporting and importing opportunities;
•             Paying for employee healthcare coverage (some owners have taken salary cuts in order to manage this expense);
•             Overhauling the Van Wyck Expressway to create an additional truck route to John F. Kennedy International Airport;
•             Having consistent height requirements for trucks on New York and New Jersey bridges and roads; and
•             Having standard operating procedures for trucking routes so drivers are made aware of trucking rules and regulations in the tri-state area (NY–NJ–CT) when they receive licenses and permits.

Though small business owners voiced concerns at the table, they were not shy in expressing that they still had the ability to create jobs and drive growth. They even made it a point to alert me to the fact that the industrial manufacturing and transport industries are thriving, growing, and looking to hire.

Participants also discussed new openings and opportunities for manufacturers, truckers, and shippers, with small business owners expressing an eagerness to tap into the potential of exporting to expand sales and hiring. And though small businesses make up 97.5 percent of all exporting firms, they only account for 31.4 percent of the value of exported goods. Indeed this is an area for growth; manufacturing and transport businesses are key players in international trade, and they are energized by President Obama’s challenge to double U.S. exports by 2015.

—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.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

A Champion of Veteran Entrepreneurship Passes

April 19th, 2012 · Comments Off

JohnKLopezLike advocates for veterans everywhere, I was saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend John K. Lopez on Friday.  John was truly the father of the “veteran entrepreneurship community” and I am proud to have known and worked with him going back for many years.  A Korean War veteran, John spent a lifetime in service to his fellow veterans, and the list of his achievements is amazing. To mention just a few, he was a prime mover of California’s pioneering 1989 legislation requiring 3 percent of state procurement dollars go to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans, as well as 1999 federal legislation requiring the same in federal procurement. John was the founding chairman of the Association for Service Disabled-Veterans, and a founding co-chairman of the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship, now known as VET-Force. What John started has now grown into a worldwide movement that knows how to shape public policy and fight for its legal rights. 

For years, John was THE advocate for developing data on businesses owned by veterans and serviced-disabled veterans (VOBs).  When he started, there was none!  More than anyone else in the world, John was responsible for correcting this situation, and his personal efforts convinced the secretary of commerce and folks on Capitol Hill that we needed data on veterans in business.  As a result, the U.S. Census Bureau resumed collecting data on VOBs and their owners in 2002 after a ten-year hiatus.  With the release of new data in 2011, we now have more information than ever before on VOBs and their owners. This is the subject of a new Office of Advocacy data product published just weeks ago.

Everything that we have now—the data and the policy victories it enabled—is rooted in John’s efforts begun years ago.  Many times, I remember him making the case that good data was critical in order to support and advance veteran entrepreneurship legislation and policy, and he was right on the money—then and now. 

Aside from his tremendous advocacy on behalf of veteran entrepreneurship and disabled veterans everywhere, John was my friend and I will miss him very much.  John has left an extraordinary legacy and record of effective advocacy for all veterans and for those who will join these honored ranks in the future.

Semper fi, my friend. 

—Joe Sobota, Assistant Chief Counsel

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics

SEC Invites Comments; Posts Initial Input on JOBS Act Rulemaking

April 17th, 2012 · 4 Comments

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on April 11 that it is accepting public input on its implementation of the newly enacted Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106. The Act includes provisions that require the SEC to undertake various initiatives, including rulemaking and studies touching on capital formation, crowdfunding, disclosure, and registration requirements.  The SEC is encouraging the public to comment on these issues even before the agency formally takes steps to implement the JOBS Act initiatives. The SEC intends to post on its website all of the comments submitted in response to its April 11 announcement.  The first comments have already been submitted. Here’s the page for submitting or viewing comments.

Advocacy’s contact person on this issue is Assistant Chief Counsel Dillon Taylor

For updates visit the Office of Advocacy’s webpages  on Finance Regulatory Alerts and Regulatory Alerts.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of April 16

April 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy posts a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week after a two week recess. The two chambers’ conferees resume negotiations on a yearlong payroll tax cut extension, and the House votes on whether to go to conference on a bill to fund federal aviation programs. On Monday, the Senate will take up its bill to ban stock trading by members of Congress and aides using information obtained through the course of their duties.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, April 17th

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion Subcommittee of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing titled “Promoting American Competitiveness: Filling Jobs Today and Training Workers for Tomorrow.”
Location: 253 Russell Bldg.
Webcast: http://commerce.senate.gov/public

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing titled “Review of Mercury Pollution’s Impacts on Public Health and the Environment.”
Location: 406 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://epw.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “Tapping America’s Unconventional Oil Resources for Job Creation and Affordable Domestic Energy: Technology and Policy Pathways.”
Location: 2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://science.house.gov

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs Subcommittee of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “The SEC’s Aversion to Cost-Benefit Analysis.”
Location: 2154 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://oversight.house.gov

Wednesday, April 18th

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee of House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Reviewing the Impact of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ Regulatory and Enforcement Actions.”
Location: 2175 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://edworkforce.house.gov

10:15 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Health Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “FDA User Fees 2012: How Innovation Helps Patients and Jobs.”
Location: 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Tax Outlook for Small Businesses: What’s on the Horizon?”
Location: 21360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov

2:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “Avoiding the Spectrum Crunch: Growing the Wireless Economy through Innovation.”
Location: 2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://science.house.gov

Thursday, April 19th  

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing titled “Time Takes Its Toll: Delays in OSHA’s Standard-Setting Process and the Impact on Worker Safety.”
Location: 430 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://www.help.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Equity Finance: Catalyst for Small Business Growth.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy

Crowdfunding—Read the Fine Print*

April 12th, 2012 · 4 Comments

*The regulations, that is. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has 270 days from the bill signing to write the regulations.

It is common knowledge that innovation and entrepreneurship are critical factors for economic growth. There is even agreement that most innovation occurs in small business and startups, but capital for this critical sector of our economy is difficult to access. For first money, startups generally rely on their own resources and what has affectionately been referred to as FFF Funding (friends, family, and fools).

The size of the funding market for these smaller investments from friends, family, or other affinity groups is estimated to be $144 billion; this is larger than the amount of venture capital funding in the market.  With an unmet demand for capital for innovation plus an existing yet informal multibillion dollar resource, this begs the obvious question—What can policymakers do to ease access to capital for innovation while at the same time assuring the proper consumer protections against fraud?

Entrepreneurs and others have advanced the notion of crowdfunding as part of the solution to the dearth of capital for startups—in particular allowing solicitation over the Internet to defined communities of classmates, colleagues, or friends; and from lower dollar, “unaccredited” investors—those with less than a million dollars in assets. Recently, Congress responded with the JOBS Act (for “Jumpstart Our Business Startups,” H.R. 3606).  The Act allows both these things—and more. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be able to raise up to $1 million in equity funding over the Internet through portals and websites that will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bill was signed into law by President Obama on April 5.

I recently participated in a panel discussion about crowdfunding sponsored by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development in Portland, Maine. There were innovators and entrepreneurs in attendance who were excited about the potential to infuse significant capital and energy into the innovation economy. Many had experience with KickStarter.com and other contribution-type websites (sites that amass contributions for shared goals/projects, without actual equity participation). Participants agreed that the addition of an investment opportunity along the lines of the crowdfunding model would bring more money to the table. At the same time, there were as many voices, even among the entrepreneurs themselves, cautioning about the potential opportunities for abuse and fraud posed by loosely regulated Internet solicitations to unaccredited investors (think massive spam, for starters).

The SEC has 270 days to write the rules that will govern these practices (the clock started ticking on April 5, when President Obama signed the bill). There are myriad issues, concerns and opportunities that must be taken into account. As always, for the regulators to strike the right balance the community who will be subject to the regs must be at the table and in the discussion. Stay tuned. Read up. Keep talking. And know that the Office of Advocacy will be listening.

—Lynn Bromley, Region I Advocate

Lynn Bromley is Region I Advocate for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. You can reach her at lynn.bromley@sba.gov.

 

To Know More . . .
Dana Mauriello, a tireless supporter of crowdfunding and cofounder of the now defunct Profounder.com, based the $144 billion estimate on one of the GEM studies and another from Babson College/London Business School:
•  “What Entrepreneurs Are Up To,” Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2008 National Entrepreneurial Assessment for the United States of America, Executive Report.
•  “For Love or Money? A Study of Financial Returns on Informal Investments in Businesses Owned by Relatives, Friends, and Strangers,” by William D. Bygrave, Babson College – Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, and Stephen Hunt, London Business School. 

→ 4 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

March Roundtable Madness Winds Down at Advocacy

April 11th, 2012 · Comments Off

In March, the Office of Advocacy hosted five roundtables on a range of matters that affect small businesses. Advocacy’s roundtables facilitate dialogue between small businesses and government agencies. These exchanges concerned issues related to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Paperwork Reduction Act, the financial industry, employee benefit plans, and occupational health and safety. The roundtables are a key opportunity for small businesses to make their concerns known, and the range of matters discussed highlights the breadth of the issues Advocacy addresses.

On March 16, Advocacy hosted its environmental roundtable led by Assistant Chief Counsels Kevin Bromberg, David Rostker, and Sarah Bresolin Silver. The roundtable focused on chemicals in federal agency rulemakings and programs. Representatives from the American Chemistry Council, Regulatory Checkbook, and IPC discussed the anticipated EPA Confidential Business Information rulemaking. They also shared concerns about the Department of Health and Human Services’ Report on Carcinogens, and provided an update on EPA’s Chemical Data Reporting Rule. In attendance were small businesses, small business trade representatives, and staff from EPA and OMB.

On March 19, Advocacy hosted a roundtable to discuss the Paperwork Reduction Act and its benefits to small businesses. Assistant Chief Counsel David Rostker led the roundtable. Notably, discussion also focused on the Administrative Conference of the United States’s draft report and recommendations for reform of the Act.

Advocacy held a roundtable on March 20 on issues affecting the financial industry. Assistant Chief Counsel Jennifer Smith led the roundtable, and participants came from the banking, mortgage, settlement services, homebuilding, credit reporting, and financial services industries. The agenda included a report on the recent small business outreach meeting for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s small business advocacy review panel on the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act/Truth in Lending Act rulemaking. Participants also provided feedback on remittance transfers, qualified mortgages, and the definition of larger participants’ rulemakings.

On March 21 Advocacy hosted a pension roundtable where small business owners, small business trade representatives, and staff from the Department of Treasury and the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss issues related to employee benefit plans. Assistant Chief Counsel Dillon Taylor organized the roundtable. The employee benefit issues discussed included: the Internal Revenue Code section 409A penalty on deferred compensation arrangements; the top-heavy rules for section 401(k) plans; cafeteria plans; and how tax reform could deter employers from offering employee benefit plans.

On March 30, Assistant Chief Counsel Bruce Lundegren hosted Advocacy’s roundtable on occupational safety and health issues. One key issue discussed was the recent publication of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) final Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) rule. This rule revises OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard to adopt the United Nations’ negotiated GHS framework. Also discussed were OSHA’s revised policy on employee incentive programs and the status of OSHA’s contemplated injury and illness prevention programs (I2P2) rulemaking.

If you would like to be added to Advocacy’s roundtable notification list, please contact the office at (202) 205-6533 or at advocacy@sba.gov.

—Sarah Bresolin Silver, Assistant Chief Counsel

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Veterans Own Nine Percent of U.S. Businesses, Advocacy Study Finds

April 9th, 2012 · 1 Comment

With his wife Trish, Gary Walker, Missouri Small Business Person of the Year for 2011, opened a cleaning service. Their company, Magic Touch Cleaning, has thrived using environmentally friendly cleaning products. The company’s clients include banks, medical facilities, eye surgery centers, and car dealerships.

Kelly Terrien, 2011 Small Business Person of the Year for Colorado, went from dress blues to a civilian businesswoman’s suit after 10 years of military service. Today, Summit Technical Solutions, which provides professional technical services, employs 350 people.

Walker and Terrien are just two of the many veterans of U.S. military service who own more than 9 percent of U.S. businesses—an estimated 2.45 million firms in all. Advocacy’s new study on business ownership by veterans, Veteran-owned Businesses and their OwnersData from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, uses recently released data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners for 2007 to examine firms owned by veterans.

Highlights of the 90-page study include the following:

  • Of the total, 491,000 veteran-owned firms were employers, and 1.96 million were nonemployers.
  • Veteran-owned firms had sales receipts of $1.2 trillion, 5.8 million employees, and annual payroll of $210 billion. Employer firms were responsible for 92 percent of the receipts, or $1.1 trillion.
  • Nearly one-third of all veteran-owned firms were in two industry groups: the construction industry and professional, scientific and technical services.

veteran-owned businesses: kind of business, 2007

  • By state, California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia had the largest numbers of veteran-owned businesses. The five states with the largest shares of veteran-owned businesses compared to total businesses were South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
  • Of the veteran business owners who responded to the survey, 8.3 percent had service-connected disabilities. Service-disabled veterans formed a larger proportion of non-employer owners than of employer owners, 9.3 percent and 6.0 percent, respectively.
  • Veteran business owners were overwhelmingly male (94.8 percent) and white (89.7 percent); 7.6 percent of veteran-owned firms were owned by African Americans and 4.6 percent by Hispanic Americans.
  • About 75 percent of owners were over the age of 55, reflecting the ages of veterans overall. As a group they tended to be better educated than other business owners.
  • By far the largest source of capital for veteran-owned business startup or acquisition was personal or family savings: 61.7 percent of respondents reported using this source. Business loans from banks or other commercial lenders were a distant second, at 9.8 percent.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

→ 1 CommentTags: Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Advocacy Listening Tour Visits NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi

April 5th, 2012 · Comments Off

In March, Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant, Senior Advisor Michael Landweber, Region IV Advocate Mark Berson, and Region VI Advocate Caitlin Cain participated in a listening tour to locations in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Photos courtesy Stennis Space Center.

SBAVisit-020web

Advocacy staff toured the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) Small Business Technology Incubator at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi. Standing, from left, are Dr. Sargeant; Julio Melhado, President Melhcorp, (MSET incubator company) Stennis Space Center; Advocacy Senior Advisor Michael Landweber; and Mark Henderson, Loglinear Group, Waveland, Miss. Seated is Michael Ricks, SBA Louisiana District Office director.

SBAVisit-022web

SBA Louisiana District Office Director Michael Ricks, Chief Counsel Sargeant, and Melhorp President Julio Melhado.

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics · State and Regional

Pool and Spa Owners Get a 60-Day Extension to Comply with ADA Standards

April 4th, 2012 · Comments Off

On April 2, the Office of Advocacy sent a letter commending  the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for publishing a final rule that extends by 60 days the date of compliance with certain requirements in the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for accessibility of existing swimming pools and spas.

As stated in Advocacy’s letter, “DOJ is extending the compliance date in order to allow additional time to address misunderstandings among pool owners and operators regarding these ADA requirements. Advocacy has heard from small hotel owners and their representatives who continue to have questions regarding their obligations to remove barriers and provide accessibility in their existing swimming pools and spas.  Advocacy is pleased that DOJ has released new compliance materials on this issue on the ADA website.1  Advocacy looks forward to continuing to work with the DOJ on educating small businesses about the requirements of this rule.2

The full letter is on Advocacy’s website.

Footnotes:

1. See DOJ, Revised ADA Requirements: Accessible Pools (Jan. 2012); DOJ, Letter to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (Feb. 21, 2012); DOJ, Letter to the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (Feb. 21, 2012).
2. Advocacy commends DOJ for taking the comments and concerns of small businesses into account during the development and implementation of these ADA rules.  Advocacy submitted a public comment letter on the proposed rule that adopted these new ADA standards.  When DOJ finalized this rule, it adopted Advocacy recommended alternatives that provided significant cost savings to small businesses. See comments from the Office of Advocacy to DOJ (Aug. 6, 2008).

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Advocacy Visits Elkridge Electronics Recycler

April 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off

On March 27, Chief Counsel Winslow Sargeant, Region III Advocate Ngozi Bell, and Special Assistant Erik Gulbrandsen paid a site visit to a small business pioneer in electronics recycling, E-Structors, in Elkridge, Maryland.

Electronics recycling in action.

Electronics recycling in action.

There’s some info on the visit on the E-Structors website:

“While at the facility Dr. Sargeant and 2 other representatives from the SBA sat down with E-Structors, Inc. CEO and Co-Founder Julie Keough and President and Co-Founder Mike Keough. They discussed the business’ history, the challenges that they had overcome in the past, and the things that are impacting their business now. The conversation reflected greatly upon the journey that the co-founders and company have had to make it to where they are today.”

You’ll find more about the trip on the E-Structors site.

Comments OffTags: State and Regional

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of March 26, 2012

March 26th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy posts a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and the Senate are both in session this week.  Dr. Sargeant will be testifying on Advocacy’s 2013 Budget before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Thursday.  The House votes Monday on a 90-day extension of surface transportation programs at current levels, as leaders try to put together a multi-year bill to allow for a conference with the Senate.  The House will take up the fiscal 2013 budget resolution later in the week. The Senate on Monday holds two cloture votes to proceed to legislation, on the energy tax break repeal bill (it is not expected to garner the 60 necessary votes) and the Postal Service overhaul measure.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, March 27th

10:00a.m.        Subcommittee Hearing
Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing titled “The EPA’s Work with Other Federal Entities to Reduce Pollution and Improve Environmental Performance.”
Location: 406 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://epw.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “Fostering the U.S. Competitive Edge: Examining the Effect of Federal Policies on Competition, Innovation and Job Growth.”
Location:         2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://science.house.gov/default.aspx

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
House Judiciary Committee will meet to vote to report pending legislation.
Location:         2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda:           HR 3862 — Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2012
Webcast:          http://judiciary.house.gov/

2:45p.m.           Subcommittee Hearing 
Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Subcommittee of Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing titled “Renewable Energy Tax Incentives: How Have the Recent and Pending Expirations of Key Incentives Affected the Renewable Energy Industry in the United States?”
Location:        
215 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast:          http://finance.senate.gov/

Wednesday, March 28th

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Large and Small Businesses: How Partnerships Can Promote Job Growth.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

2:30 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security Subcommittee of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on efforts to combat waste and fraud in federal programs.
Location:         342 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast:          http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/

Thursday, March 29th  

9:00 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Health Subcommittee of House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the constitutional concerns raised by the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).
Location: 1100 Longworth Bldg.
Webcast: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/

9:30 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing to receive a semiannual report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Location:         2128 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://financialservices.house.gov

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Oversight Hearing
Contracting Oversight Subcommittee of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold an oversight hearing titled “Contractors: How Much Are They Costing the Government?”
Location:         342 Dirksen Russell Bldg.
Webcast:          http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing 
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee  will hold a hearing on the fiscal 2013 budget request for the programs and activities of the Small Business Administration.
Location:         428 A Dirksen Bldg.
Witnesses:        The Honorable Karen Mills, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
Mr. Ridgely C. Evers, Managing Partner, Tapit Partners LLC
Mr. Christopher G. Hurn, CEO, Mercantile Capital Corporation
Mr. Bill Shear, Director, Financial Markets & Community Investment, U.S. Government Accountability Office
Mr. Tony Wilkinson, President, National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders
The Honorable Peggy E. Gustafson, Inspector General, U.S. Small Business Administration
The Honorable Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy, U.S. Small Business Administration
Webcast:          http://sbc.senate.gov

→ 2 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Report: Small Business Scores on Job Creation

March 23rd, 2012 · 2 Comments

This week, the Office of Advocacy released the new edition of the annual report, The Small Business Economy.  You can find the entire report on the website, and you can read about in interesting places like Inc.com’s Wire, and reproduced below:

Report: Small Business Scores on Job Creation

Small businesses provide more jobs, IPOs are more profitable, and sales are picking up, according to the Small Business Administration.

Waiting for the job market to recover? Focus on small business growth, says a new report.

Small businesses outperformed large firms in job creation from 1992 to 2010, according to a report from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, released Wednesday. About 75% of the time, when private-sector employment was rising, small businesses created more jobs than large firms, the SBA found.

The report, available online, is full of other news for small businesses, including positive information about increasing entrepreneur demographics, initial public offerings, and total lending for loans under $1 million.

The report shows that total IPOs were $36.3 billion in 2010, an increase from $18 billion in 2009. There was also a dramatic increase in Hispanic business owners, up 86 percent over the 2000-2010 period.

Businesses seeking loans should also be happy to hear that in June 2011 total lending for loans under $1 million was $606.9 billion.

And after a slowdown earlier in the decade, the SBA says that sales and many other macroeconomic indicators are once again picking up. —Caitlin Berens

→ 2 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics

Regulatory Alerts: Spotted Owls and Swimming Pools

March 21st, 2012 · Comments Off

The Office of Advocacy has posted two regulatory alerts regarding a proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service and a final rule from the Department of Justice.

FWS Proposes To Revise the Designated Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl

On March 8, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to revise the designated critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl under the Endangered Species Act. FWS has identified approximately 13.9 million acres in various counties in California, Oregon, and Washington for critical habitat designation. The FWS is considering excluding all private land from this designation and is requesting comment. 

Comments are due by June 6, 2012.

 •    The proposed rule appears in the Federal Register.
 •    You can submit comments to FWS electronically.
 •    Advocacy’s contact is Kia.dennis@sba.gov.

Justice Department Extends Compliance Dates for Pool ADA Accessibility Requirements; Announces 15-Day Public Comment Period for A Further Extension of Compliance Dates

On March 15, the Justice Department released a final rule extending the date for compliance with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design as it relates to the provision of accessible entry and exit to existing swimming pools, wading pools, and spas for a period of 60 days after the publication of the rule in the Federal Register.  The new effective date is May 21, 2012. The Department is issuing this extension in order to allow additional time to address misunderstandings among pool owners and operators regarding these ADA requirements. On that same day, the Justice Department released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking public comment on whether a longer period of time would be appropriate to allow pool owners and operators to meet their compliance obligations. Specifically, the NPRM proposes a 180-day extension of the deadline, until September 17, 2012. 

 Comments on the NPRM will be accepted for 15 days after publication in the Federal Register, or April 4, 2012.

 •     Notice of 60 Day Extension & Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from ADA website. 
 •     Submit Comments  to DOJ Electronically by April 4, 2012.  
 •     Guidance on Revised ADA Requirements: Accessible Pools from ADA website.  
 •     Letter to the American Hotel and Lodging Association regarding accessible entry and exit for swimming pools and spas.  
•     Advocacy contact: Janis.Reyes@sba.gov.

For more information on Regulatory Alerts please see the Office of Advocacy webpage http://www.sba.gov/advocacy and visit Regulations.gov, the Federal government’s one-stop-site to comment on Federal regulations.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of March 19

March 20th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and the Senate are both in session this week.

The Senate will continue to work on the small-business capital legislation on Monday. On Tuesday, they will vote on motions to invoke cloture on provisions involving investor protections and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and they may vote on the bill itself later in the week. 

The House will considers a bill under suspension of the rules on non-immigrant U.S. visas for Israeli nationals. Later in the week, the House considers a bill that would impose federal caps on some medical malpractice lawsuits.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, March 20th  

10:00a.m.        Subcommittee Hearing
Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing titled “Oversight: Review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants.”
Location:
406 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://epw.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Energy and Power Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings titled “The American Energy Initiative.”
Location:         2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://energycommerce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Workforce Protections Subcommittee of House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Ensuring Regulations Protect Access to Affordable and Quality Companion Care.”
Location:         2175 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://edlabor.house.gov/

2:45p.m.          Subcommittee Oversight Hearing 
Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold an oversight hearing on commercial airline safety.
Location:        
253 Russell Bldg.
Webcast:          http://commerce.senate.gov

Wednesday, March 21st  

9:30a.m.          Subcommittee Hearing
Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee of Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining Investor Risks in Crowdfunding.”
Location:
538 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast:          http://banking.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Oversight Hearing
House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing titled “Harnessing American Resources to Create Jobs and Address Rising Gasoline Prices: Families and Cost-of-Life Impacts.”
Location:         1324 Longworth Bldg.
Webcast:          http://naturalresources.house.gov/ 

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing 
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight and the Anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148].”
Location:         2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://energycommerce.house.gov/

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “A Job Creation Roadmap: How America’s Entrepreneurs Can Lead Our Economic Recovery.”
Location:         2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:  http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

1:30 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee of House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs: Federal Regulations and Regulatory Reform under the Obama Administration.”
Location: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov/

2:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform Subcommittee of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] in the 21st Century: Using Technology to Improve Transparency in Government.”
Location:         2154 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:          http://oversight.house.gov/

Thursday, March 22nd   

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee of House Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing titled “Empty Hooks: The National Ocean Policy is the Latest Threat to Access for Recreational and Commercial Fishermen.”
Location: 1324 Longworth Bldg.
Webcast: http://naturalresources.house.gov/ 

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing on small business investment companies and their role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Location:         428 A Russell Bldg.
Webcast:          http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing 
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee  will hold a hearing titled “International Harmonization of Wall Street Reform: Orderly Liquidation, Derivatives, and the Volcker Rule.”
Location:         538 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast:          http://banking.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Motor Vehicle Safety Provisions in House and Senate Highway Bills.”
Location:         2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda:          HR 7 — American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012
Webcast:          http://energycommerce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Markup
House Small Business Committee will mark up pending legislation.
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Agenda:          HR 3985 — Building Better Business Partnerships Act of 2012
HR 3987 — Small Business Protection Act of 2012
HR 4081 — Contractor Opportunity Protection Act of 2012
Draft Bill — Contracting Oversight for Small Business Jobs Act of 2012
Draft Bill — Women’s Procurement Improvement Act of 2012
Webcast:  http://www.house.gov/smbiz/

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy · Uncategorized

Small Business Lending: Fourth Quarter 2011

March 19th, 2012 · Comments Off

Advocacy economist Victoria Williams recently reported on the financial data for fourth quarter 2011 that was released this month. The new data shows that borrowing remained challenging for small businesses through fourth quarter 2011, even as the pace of economic activity increased and financial conditions overall were supportive of growth. Principal economic indicators such as gross domestic product and total business lending continued a steady upward trend. But the recovery of small firms has been slow because of their inability to access credit markets.

While the recent data serve as a reality check, signs of small business resilience are also in evidence.

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SBA Works with Business for Fair Regulations

March 15th, 2012 · Comments Off

The following guest editorial article by Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant appeared in Saturday’s Nashville Tennessean (March 10).

As chief counsel for advocacy in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, I’m often asked “What is the one bit of advice you have for entrepreneurs and small businesses?” My answer is the same for both: “Know who your competition is.”

Before becoming chief counsel, I served as an adviser to entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and I repeatedly encountered individuals who lacked understanding of the competition for their product or service. If you don’t know who your competitors are, it could mean one of two things: Either you don’t understand the market, or there is no need for your product or service. One important way to develop that understanding is to listen to your customers.

Listening is something we do every day at the Office of Advocacy. Congress created Advocacy to inform policymakers about small-business contributions through research and to effectively represent the nation’s small businesses within the federal government’s rulemaking processes. Advocacy’s mission, simply stated, is to give visibility to American small businesses and to encourage policies — especially regulatory policies — that support their startup, development and growth.

To be successful, Advocacy has to listen to small businesses. We do this by conducting roundtables on issues important to small business through Advocacy’s regional advocates, who help keep me informed of the concerns of small businesses throughout the country. We also get out of Washington to meet with entrepreneurs and small-business owners. That’s why I’m coming to Nashville, to hear from entrepreneurs and small-business owners about what’s on their mind. From the research conducted by my office, we know of the important role small businesses play in the Tennessee economy. They represent 97 percent of all employers and employ 44.8 percent of the private-sector workforce. In Tennessee, small businesses employed 1 million workers in 2009, with most of the employment coming from firms with 20-499 employees.

When it comes to regulations, I hear the same message from small businesses, whether I’m in Washington or someplace else in our nation, and it isn’t what you’d expect. Small businesses understand the importance and the need for regulations, but they want the process of creating them to be fair, transparent and predictable. We applaud the Obama administration for Executive Order 13563, which calls for agencies to promote open exchange and seek views of those affected by regulations. At Advocacy, we work with small businesses and federal agencies to find ways to make this happen and lessen the burden of federal regulations.

In fiscal 2011, Advocacy saved small businesses $11.7 billion in first-year regulatory costs and $10.7 billion in annually recurring costs. These numbers represent real cost savings for small businesses that can be reinvested back into the business. As a former entrepreneur, I can attest that small firms are in a better position to grow, innovate, and create jobs when regulations are less burdensome.

When you listen to your customers, you are better able to serve them. At Advocacy, we’ll continue to listen to small businesses and work with federal agencies to find ways to create a more fair, transparent and predictable regulatory process.

Winslow Sargeant will be a keynote speaker at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Outlook Summit on March 13. For more information, visit www.nashvillechamber.com.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy · State and Regional

Advocacy’s New Research Resource

March 14th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Interested in delving into the data on businesses owned by women, veterans, or minorities? Looking for the latest statistics on small business lending or venture capital? Advocacy has a new user-friendly web page, Small Business Data Resources, that can point you in the right direction.

Since its creation by Public Law 94-305 in 1976, the SBA’s Office of Advocacy has been tasked, among other things, to “examine the role of small business in the American economy.” Given an ambitious mission and limited resources to develop databases of our own, the Office of Advocacy has spent the past 35 years acquiring expertise in working with federal agencies like the Census Bureau and others to develop data sets that provide relevant and timely business information by firm size. Along the way, many other government and nongovernment organizations have also developed data and surveys relevant to particular aspects of the study of small business. These many databases have been the starting point for hundreds of research studies commissioned by Advocacy over the years.   

Small Business Data Resources is a hyperlinked list of most of the key federal government and nongovernment data sources that can provide information on small businesses, their sales, employment, benefits, and related information. It points users to databases that provide insight on specific topics such as demographics, employment, finance, firm size data, health care, income and sales, taxes, and training.

So—if you’re interested in the statistics on small business lending or venture capital, check the databases listed under “Finance.” There you’ll find, for example, the source for SBA lending data, as well as Call Report Data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, and the National Venture Capital Association’s Total Venture Capital Investments. If you’re looking for data on businesses owned by women, veterans, or minorities, scan the checked boxes under “Demographics,” where you’ll find, among others, the hyperlinks for the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners and the Census Bureau/Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey.

Those are just a few of the rich veins of small business-related data you can mine from one Office of Advocacy site. Let us know what riches you find!

—Kathryn Tobias

→ 2 CommentsTags: Research & Statistics

Fish and Wildlife Service Publishes a Draft Economic Analysis for the Riverside Fairy Shrimp

March 9th, 2012 · 8 Comments

On March 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the reopening of the public comment period on the agency’s June 1, 2011, proposal for a revised designation of critical habitat for the Riverside Fairy Shrimp, as well as the availability of a draft economic analysis (DEA).

Comments on the proposal are due by April 2.

•           The March 1 Notice of Proposed Rule from the Federal Register appears here.

•           To submit comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service electronically, visit regulations.gov, the Federal government’s one stop site to comment on Federal regulations.

•           For more information on Advocacy’s Environmental Regulatory Alerts visit the office webpage.

—Kia Dennis, Assistant Chief Counsel

→ 8 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Implementation of Two Labor Rules Postponed

March 8th, 2012 · 7 Comments

Some recent developments have postponed the implementation of two new labor rules that have con­cerned small business. The Office of Advocacy has been working with representatives of the affected small business industries in both cases.

Congressional Action Halts H-2B Visa Wage Increases

On December 23, 2011, President Obama signed into law the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which includes language that prohibits the use of any FY2012 federal funding to enforce the Department of Labor’s final rule on wage methodology for the H-2B visa program. Under the final rule, the wages of H-2B visa holders in the affected industries would have increased by $1.23 to $9.72 per hour. Prior to this congressional action, the agency had also postponed the effective date of this rule numerous times.

The H-2B program allows seasonal employers to temporarily hire low-wage foreign workers. Some of the top industries that utilize the H-2B program are landscaping, lodging, construction, restaurants, and seafood processing. In the past year, Advocacy has held two small business roundtables and submitted four public comment letters on the H-2B visa issue. Small businesses have expressed concern that the wage increases in this final rule would shut small businesses out of this vital program, jeopardizing their business operations. Advocacy will continue to monitor the H-2B issue and its effect on small businesses.

NLRB Postpones Effective Date of Rights Posting Rule to April 30

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency, has agreed to postpone the effective date of a rule requiring the display of an employee rights poster in workplaces. This was done at the request of a federal court in Washington, D.C., which is hearing a legal challenge to the rule. The board determined that postponing the effective date would facilitate the resolution of the legal challenges that have been filed with respect to the rule. The new implementation date is April 30, 2012.

Most private sector employers will be required to post the 11-by-17-inch notice by the new implementation date of April 30. The notice is available at no cost from the NLRB, which has additional information on posting requirements and NLRB jurisdiction.

—Janis Reyes, Assistant Chief Counsel

→ 7 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of March 5

March 6th, 2012 · 4 Comments

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week.  On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on a substitute amendment to the surface transportation bill. The House plans to vote on a bill that would allow the government to impose punitive tariffs on imported goods from state economies such as China’s.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, March 6th     

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing 
Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing titled “Tax Reform Options: Incentives for Capital Investment and Manufacturing.”
Location: 215 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://finance.senate.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing 
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee  will hold a hearing titled “Spurring Job Growth Through Capital Formation While Protecting Investors.”
Location: 538 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://banking.senate.gov/public/

Wednesday, March 7th

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Workforce Protections Subcommittee of House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Ensuring Regulations Protect Access to Affordable and Quality Companion Care.”
Location: 2175 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://edworkforce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
House Ways and Means Committee will hold a series of hearings on the interaction of tax policies and financial accounting rules, as well as the burden that businesses face in dealing with tax accounting.
Location: 1100 Longworth Bldg.
Webcast: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
House Small Business Committee will meet to consider its “Views and Estimates” report that will be forwarded to the House Budget Committee for use in drafting the 2013 concurrent budget resolution.
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Markup
House Small Business Committee will mark up pending legislation.
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Legislation: HR 3850 — Government Efficiency through Small Business Contracting Act of 2012
HR 3851 — A bill to amend the Small Business Act with respect to Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, and for other purposes.
HR 3893 — Subcontracting Transparency and Reliability Act of 2012
HR 3980 — Small Business Opportunity Act of 2012
HR 4118 — Small Business Procurement Improvement Act of 2012
HR 4121 — Early Stage Small Business Contracting Act of 2012
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

2:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
Senate Special Aging Committee will hold a hearing titled “Opportunities for Savings: Removing Obstacles for Small Business.” The hearing will focus on the relative scarcity of retirement savings plans among small businesses, and solutions for overcoming the barriers that discourage small businesses from offering retirement plans.
Location: 562 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://aging.senate.gov/

Thursday, March 8th

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Investigations, Oversight and Regulations Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Powering Down: Are Government Regulations Impeding Small Energy Producers and Harming Energy Security?”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov

→ 4 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of February 27

February 28th, 2012 · 7 Comments

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House votes on a bill to repeal two regulations on for-profit colleges; one defines a credit hour, and the other sets state authorization requirements.

The majority of the week will be holding hearings on the fiscal 2013 budget.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, February 28th

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
Senate Budget Committee (Chairman Conrad, D-N.D.) will hold a hearing titled “Putting Health Care Spending on a Sustainable Path.”
Location: 608 Dirksen Bldg.
Witnesses: David Cutler, professor of economics, Harvard University
Len Nichols, professor of health policy and director Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics, George Mason University
Webcast: http://budget.senate.gov/

Wednesday, February 29th

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
House Ways and Means Committee (Chairman Camp, R-Mich.) will hold a hearing on U.S. trade policy and the future of U.S. trade negotiations.
Location: 1100 Longworth Bldg.
Witnesses: Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative
Webcast: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/

Thursday, March 1st

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing
Senate Budget Committee (Chairman Conrad, D-N.D.) will hold a hearing titled “Tax Reform to Encourage Growth, Reduce the Deficit and Promote Fairness.”
Location: 608 DirksenBldg.
Witness: Leonard E. Burman, professor of public affairs, Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Diane Lim Rogers, chief economist, Concord Coalition
Daniel J. Mitchell, senior fellow, Cato Institute
Webcast: http://budget.senate.gov/

→ 7 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

No More Crying Over Spilled Milk

February 23rd, 2012 · 2 Comments

Small businesses saved $11.7 billion in fiscal year 2011—and $10.7 billion of that will be annually recurring costs—as a result of regulatory changes made to final rules based on Office of Advocacy recommendations, according to this year’s Annual Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act, FY 2011. Since 1980, Advocacy has facilitated compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which requires federal agencies to examine proposed rules for their impacts on small entities and to suggest alternatives that may mitigate regulatory burdens while carrying out the purposes of the rules.

This process is not simple. Advocacy’s work with federal agencies includes training rule writers in the requirements of the RFA; working closely with agencies in confidential preproposal discussions; conducting outreach to small entities and trade associations through electronic notification, roundtables, and formal panels; providing written comments to the agencies; and reporting annually on agencies’ compliance. 

The rules cover the spectrum of American life, from clean air to workplace safety. Rules cover the building blocks of decision-making, such as defining what constitutes a small business, what is oil, and who is a fiduciary.

In FY 2011, for example, the Department of Energy saved $400 million for small firms carrying out new water efficiency standards for showerheads. In keeping with one of Advocacy’s recommendations, the agency gave small manufacturers a grace period of two years to sell any remaining noncompliant products and adjust their product designs to meet the new standards.

A general safe harbor recommended by the Office of Advocacy and adopted by the Department of Justice gave small businesses a reprieve from having to automatically redo accessibility improvements. Under the safe harbor, small businesses who previously upgraded specific elements in their facilities to comply with the 1991 standards for accessibility of public buildings under the Americans with Disabilities Act are exempt from redoing these elements to meet the 2010 requirements until they initiate new construction plans. This example of flexibility is estimated to save small businesses more than $8 billion annually.  

Perhaps the most celebrated accomplishment was touted by President Obama in his State of the Union Address on January 24: “We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill—because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.” 

That was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Milk and Milk Products; Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Rule, described on p. 26 of the report. Removing milk and milk processing plants from that rule saved small businesses an estimated $146 million annually.

The report covers many more regulatory reforms—though none so pithily proverbial.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

→ 2 CommentsTags: Regulatory Policy

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of February 13, 2012

February 13th, 2012 · Comments Off

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week.  The majority of the week will be spent on President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal that will be released on Monday.  Also on the agenda are the competing surface transportation authorization measures, with both the House and the Senate set to take up their respective bills this week. 

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, February 15th     

9:30 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing 
Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings on efforts to overcome obstacles to job growth and promote opportunities for job creation. Hearing titled: “Where Are the Jobs? Trends and Analysis.” will focus on current U.S. job trends
Location: 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

9:30 a.m.         Subcommittee Hearing 
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “Why Reshuffling Government Agencies Won’t Solve the Federal Government’s Obesity Problem.”
Location: 2154 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://oversight.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Health Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings on the reauthorization of various existing and proposed federal medical device and drug user fee programs. Hearing Topic: Reauthorization of MDUFA (Medical Device User Fee Act): What It Means for Jobs, Innovation and Patients. The user fees, which fund the FDA’s pre-market device review process, are set to expire Sept. 30, 2012.
Location: 2322Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

1:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Healthcare and Technology Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Broadband: A Catalyst for Small Business Growth.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

2:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee  of House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Safeguarding the Integrity of the Immigration Benefits Adjudication Process.”
Location: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov/

Thursday February 16th

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Role of Government Assistance for Disaster Victims: A Review of HR 3042.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

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Proposed Defense Department rules may stifle university research

February 8th, 2012 · 1 Comment

By: James Hendler

U.S. security and prosperity rests, in great part, on our technological innovation and creativity. Both are nurtured within our research university system. The Defense Department, however, is considering new rules for handling sensitive information that, while intended to strengthen U.S. security, could stifle innovative university research.

The U.S. is the world leader in moving research from science to practice. Our information, life science, energy and materials industries grow out of the complex ecosystem that has developed to fund academic science; move this research via joint funding of universities and companies, and then commercialize these innovations for both military and civilian purposes.

The proposed rule concerns a category of information now referred to as “sensitive but unclassified,” or SBU for short. Research that the U.S. military determines is important for national defense can be made secret — and thus illegal to share. Because of the conditions attached to secret material, most universities either do not permit faculty to work on classified research or limit where and how such work can be done.

For example, accepting classified work on campus puts restrictions on what research results can be published, what research seminars can be taught and which students can be hired to work on research projects.

The government has become increasingly worried in the past decade about whether the current classification laws are sufficient. The new rule would require companies funded by the government to take enhanced measures for safeguarding unclassified Defense Department information. This regulation would “establish secrecy as the presumptive status of unclassified DOD information,” OMB Watch explained. Anything that might lead to military use, the proposal says, should be handled as if it was classified.

Defense Department concerns are understandable. But the proposed rule would create tremendous complications for science as projects move from theory to practice. As new technologies morph into applications, research is often pursued jointly by universities and companies. In these cases, the university must work within the information handling constraints that apply to the company.

Under the proposed rule, a great deal of now-unclassified work would need to be treated as if it were. This could threaten the crucial links between university researchers and the companies that develop new technologies — making the barriers to joint development prohibitively high.

Universities would be unlikely to accept research burdened with the restrictions that come with the new SBU rules. Companies will most likely be in danger of legal action if they don’t enforce them.

Economic effects of the new rule could be significant. SBU research originally conceived of as being potentially useful for the military often can end up leading to revolutionary innovations in civilian technology.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, for example, funded a project in the 1960s to develop technology able to preserve U.S. communications systems in a nuclear attack. This research led to the ARPANet — predecessor of the Internet. Computer algorithms that DOD funded to increase our understanding of these increasingly complex computer networks led to many of the programs that now power Google, Facebook and other Web giants.

Similar stories can be told about engineering breakthroughs from materials developed for the military’s space satellite industry, health breakthroughs from grants awarded jointly by defense and medical funders and breakthroughs in power production growing out of Energy Department research for national defense. In all these cases, and many others, the proposed Defense Department rule would have made the corporate-university partnerships that led to these innovations virtually impossible.

With the U.S. facing strategic and economic insecurity, passing a DOD rule that could affect the pipeline of new research innovations is a risky proposition — one we can ill afford. Especially when our nation needs innovation, new technologies and new job creation more than ever before.

James Hendler is the Tetherless World chairman of computer and cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is the former chief scientist for the Information Systems Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.



Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/72573.html#ixzz1lo2rGiox

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of February 6, 2012

February 7th, 2012 · Comments Off

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and the Senate are both in session this week.  The conference committee on the payroll tax cuts is scheduled to meet today.  On Monday, the Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization and sent it to the President’s desk for the first time in a decade. The Senate is also expected to take up the surface transportation reauthorization package today. The House plans to take up the Senate’s insider-trading bill and they also plan to have votes on line-item veto, the budget process and reusing unneeded federal property.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, February 8th    

9:00 a.m.         Full Committee Hearing   
House Ways and Means Committee will hold a series of hearings on the interaction of tax policies and financial accounting rules, as well as the burden that businesses face in dealing with tax accounting.
Location: 1100 Longworth Bldg.
Webcast: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing  
Energy and Power Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings titled “The American Energy Initiative.”
Location: 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing    
Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on legislation concerning accountability and transparency at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Location: 2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Legislation: HR 1355 — Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011
HR 2081 — A bill to amend the Federal Deposit Insurance Act to replace the director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection with the chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System as a member of the board of directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
HR 3871 — Proprietary Information Protection Act of 2012
Webcast: http://financialservices.house.gov/

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Placing Federal Tax Dollars at Risk: How the Small Business Administration Mismanages the Modernization of Its Information Technology.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Witnesses: Marie Johns, deputy administrator, Small Business Administration
David Powner, director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

2:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee (Chairman Garrett, R-N.J.) of House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on legislative proposals that would limit the extraterritorial impact of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (PL 111-203).
Location: 2128 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://financialservices.house.gov/

Thursday February 9th  

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Contracting and Workforce Panel of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “Construction Contracting: Barriers to Small Business Participation.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Reforming VA’s Flawed Fiduciary System.”
Location: 334 Cannon Bldg.
Webcast: http://veterans.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Health Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a series of hearings on the reauthorization of various existing and proposed federal medical device and drug user fee programs.
Location: 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee of House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Regional Perspectives on Agricultural Guestworker Programs.”
Location: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov/

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Good News in the Profiles: States Show Private Sector Job Gains Beginning in 2010

February 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Once again, Advocacy’s state Small Business Profiles tell a story about where we have been going over the past couple of years. The news about employment change going forward is positive: the United States as a whole and nearly all of the states are beginning to show net private sector job gains rather than losses, as had occurred almost universally in 2009. Even states where employment change in 2010 remained negative were far closer to positive territory  than in the previous difficult year.

Table 2 of the U.S. profile, combined with a look at Table A.10 on pp. 126-127 of The Small Business Economy, 2010, shows that 2008-2009 was the first period since 1990-1991 in which job creation in small firms (those with fewer than 500 employees) was not considerably better compared with large firms (500 or employees). That 1991-2008 period represents a 17-year track record of significant outperformance by the smalls in the net job race. But in 2008-2009, according to the Census Bureau (Table 2 of the state profiles), small businesses lost 3.28 million jobs on net, compared with a net loss of almost as many, 3.10 million, in large businesses. It was a bad year for everyone.

The good news in the data, if you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers in this year’s U.S. profile, Table 3, is that the trend has shifted to positive gains of 1.13 million net new jobs in 2010, compared with the negative number from last year’s U.S. profile of 5.5 million jobs lost in 2009. Moreover, according to Advocacy’s third quarter 2011 bulletin, more than half of the 1.13 million new jobs were from small firms—as were more than 80 percent of the net new jobs in the first quarter of 2011. Note that these numbers in Table 3 of the profiles are based on different data than the Census numbers, so the exact figures will vary somewhat from one source to the other. But the trend is the same, which is good news for the economy and small business.

You can check this out for yourself state by state. Go to the right four columns in Table 3 in any state and add the job gains as a result of business openings and expansions; then subtract the job losses from business closings and contractions. I looked at a random sample of the states and found that only three of the 19 I examined showed negative employment change for 2010. All three had far fewer net job losses than in 2009 (see last year’s profiles). Coming out of the recession, they had a long way to go, but even those three are well on the way toward net positive job gains if the current trends continue.

Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of January 30, 2012

January 30th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The chambers’ conferees resume negotiations on a yearlong payroll tax cut extension, and the House votes on whether to go to conference on a bill to fund federal aviation programs. The Senate on Monday takes up its bill to ban stock trading by members of Congress and aides using information obtained through the course of their duties.

Committees in both chambers plan to mark up surface transportation authorization bills. House Natural Resources takes up that chamber’s measure Wednesday, and the Transportation and Infrastructure panel, on Thursday. Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs marks up a competing bill, also on Thursday.

The House transportation bill would expand oil and gas production on public lands and federal waters and dedicate the royalties to transportation projects. Senators oppose linking transportation spending to an expansion of drilling.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, January 31st   

9:30 a.m.         Full Committee Hearing   
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Holding the CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] Accountable: Review of First Semi-annual Report”
Location: 538 Dirksen Bldg.
Witnesses: Richard Cordray, director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Webcast: http://banking.senate.gov

Wednesday, February 1st

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Hearing  
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing on efforts to develop policies and strategies that encourage and strengthen high-growth entrepreneurship.
Location: 428-A Russell Bldg.
Webcast: http://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing    
Energy and Environment Subcommittee of House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “Fractured Science – Examining EPA’s Approach to Ground Water Research: The Pavillion Analysis.” The hearing will focus on an EPA report on whether hydraulic fracturing caused contamination of ground water in Pavillion, Wyo. Critics have charged the agency did not follow its own guidelines and procedures in conducting the analysis.
Location: 2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://science.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee of House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Prior User Rights: Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing and Innovation.” The session will focus on the problem of how to fairly handle cases in which two companies or individuals develop patentable ideas at approximately the same time or cases in which an idea is developed and used, but not patented, and that idea is subsequently patented by another company or individual.
Location: 2141 Rayburn Bldg.
Legislation: HR 1249 — Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Webcast: http://judiciary.house.gov/

1:00 p.m.         Full Committee Hearing
House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Path to Job Creation: The State of American Small Businesses.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

Thursday February 2nd

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Agriculture, Energy and Trade Subcommittee of House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Future of the Family Farm: The Effect of Proposed DOL [Department of Labor] Regulations on Small Business Producers.”
Location: 2360 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/

10:00 a.m.       Subcommittee Hearing
Energy and Environment Subcommittee of House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a series of hearings titled “Fostering Quality Science at EPA.”
Location: 2318 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://science.house.gov/

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Amid Regulations Debate, White House Seeks Cuts

January 26th, 2012 · 3 Comments

The Obama Administration claims it can save businesses $10 billion over five years. Businesses and Republicans give the White House review an “incomplete”

By 

Since the early 1990s, gas stations have had to equip pumps with nozzles to capture fuel vapors that escape from tanks as drivers fill up. The government mandated the vapor-recovery systems, which can cost station owners more than $100,000 dollars to install and $3,000 annually to run, to keep harmful pollutants out of the atmosphere. However, most new cars and trucks have tanks that also prevent fumes from leaking during refueling. So now federal regulators want to drop the requirement that gas stations maintain the redundant equipment.

The change, expected to be finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency this summer and take effect next year, is one of roughly 500 old rules being reviewed as part of a year-old White House effort to cut red tape. President Barack Obama last January ordered agencies to revamp clunky or unneeded regulations to make it easier for businesses, particularly small ones, to comply. “When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them,” Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address.

The White House’s “retrospective review” may begin to loosen some of the tangled bureaucracy that vexes entrepreneurs. Regulation is among the small business owners’ biggest complaints: An October Gallup poll ranked it as their top problem, though other surveys, such as one by theNational Federation of Independent Business, place red tape below concerns such as weak sales.

DISTRACTING REGULATIONS

Small businesses advocates welcome the effort, but they say more needs to be done. “Looking at the list [of rules under review] does point out the difficulty that the regulatory regime creates for small companies,” says Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Assn., a Washington trade group. “It’s just the enormous number of relatively small things that a small business owner can’t keep track of.”

Both Republicans and Democrats, eager to be seen as champions of Main Street, pledge to get regulation out of the way of entrepreneurs. Politically, Obama’s focus on streamlining bureaucracy could counter Republican efforts to paint him as a heavy-handed opponent of free enterprise. “Our goal … is to change the regulatory culture of Washington,” Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said in a November speech. The White House estimates businesses will save $10 billion in the next five years from various rule changes in the works. Among the highlights: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is cutting redundant reporting requirements; the Department of Health and Human Services says three rules changes will save doctors and hospitals $1 billion a year; and trade-related agencies are trying to make it easier for small businesses to export.

The NSBA’s McCracken says he’d like to see such a shift, along with mechanisms that encourage rule makers to keep regulations sensible. One idea he floats is a “regulatory budget” that tempers new rules based on how much they’re expected to cost affected businesses. “You’re basically giving agencies an incentive to make sure regulations they put forth are as streamlined and logical as possible,” he says.

STILL “A COMBATIVE PROCESS”

Tom Sullivan gives the White House regulatory project a grade of “incomplete.” Sullivan served as chief counsel for advocacy in the Small Business Administration under George W. Bush. He was the federal official charged with making sure regulators consider small businesses. “There’s a giant question mark on whether that process is generating real dollar savings for small business and real reduced paperwork burdens,” says Sullivan, now an attorney at Nelson Mullins in Washington. He also says agencies seem to consider small businesses adversaries, rather than stakeholders, when writing rules. “You can look at [regulation] as a constructive process or a combative process,” he says. “Unfortunately I’ve seen this administration look at it as a combative process.”

The rules for gas stations show how tricky it can be to simplify a regulation. While the EPA change will lift the federal mandate for vapor-recovery systems, states have requirements that need to be changed in turn, says John Eichberger, vice-president of government relations for NACS, a trade group for convenience stores and gas stations. And states in what’s known as the “ozone transport region,” which stretches from Virginia to Maine, won’t be able to remove the costly vapor-recovery systems without replacing them with additional measures to reduce emissions, the EPA says in a prepared statement. Eichberger’s group has asked the EPA to expedite the changes.

Winslow Sargeant, the SBA’s current chief counsel for advocacy, cites a few successes at repealing regulations in the past year, including one that classified milk as an “oil” akin to petroleum and put onerous requirements on companies shipping dairy to avoid spills. “We wrote a letter years ago in terms of why that didn’t make sense, so we’re pleased that that rule is no longer there,” he says. Sargeant also says he wants agencies to give small companies clearer guidance on how to follow the rules. “Small businesses do not want to spend thousands of dollars on working out how to comply and then be told, ‘I’m sorry, that’s nice, but not nice enough,’” he says.

Find the article here:http://www.businessweek.com/small-business/amid-regulations-debate-white-house-seeks-cuts-01242012_page_2.html

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Rehberg’s vote on Clean Water Act empowers polluters

January 24th, 2012 · 4 Comments

Rep. Denny Rehberg voted last year to undermine the Clean Water Act. He claims to have done so to empower states and to save businesses from hidden taxes incurred by their forced compliance with federal regulations.

Unfortunately, the lack of overarching controls would empower only polluters, and Rehberg’s efforts would have the ironic effect of undermining local control. Ordinary people who traditionally use waterways for recreation or who count on the tourist and fishing industries for their livelihoods would have little say. Unlike politicians, Burlington Northern and Marathon Oil cannot be voted out of office.

As for the supposed cost of federal regulations, the oft-quoted figure of a $1.7 trillion hidden tax on businesses cited by Rehberg on his website is misleading at best. It originated in a study funded by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy with the goal of removing obstacles to profit. According to the less biased Office of Management and Budget, however, the benefits of federal regulation in such areas as public health and greater worker productivity outweigh the costs by $73 to $561 billion.

Considering that an estimated $570.8 billion is already lost to federal revenues through tax subsidies to corporations per year, Rehberg seems to be crying crocodile tears into a river he’d soon find too polluted even for those redoubtable saurians.

Cara Chamberlain

Billings

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/mailbag/rehberg-s-vote-on-clean-water-act-empowers-polluters/article_453d82d2-1718-5f27-abc6-eb0ae3b359ae.html#ixzz1kOYvzoRD

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Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of January 23, 2012

January 23rd, 2012 · 2 Comments

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week.  They will meet for a joint session for President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.Also Tuesday, conferees from both chambers will meet for the first time to work out differences over a bill to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut.

Majority Leader Reid postponed a vote on a continuous online piracy measure, so the Senate may not have much legislative action this week. On Wednesday, the House takes up a bill to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, a long-term care program created by the 2010 health care overhaul.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Tuesday, January 24th

1:30 p.m.          Subcommittee Hearing
TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs Subcommittee of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing titled “How Will the CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] Function Under Richard Cordray?”
Location: 2154 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast: http://oversight.house.gov/

Wednesday, January 25th

8:00 a.m.          Subcommittee Hearing
Energy and Power Subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “American Jobs Now: A Legislative Hearing on HR 3548, the North American Energy Access Act.”
Location: 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
Legislation: HR 3548 — North American Energy Access Act
Webcast: http://energycommerce.house.gov/

Thursday, January 26th

10:00 a.m.        Full Committee Hearing
Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the outlook for the U.S. and global economy.
Location: 608 Dirksen Bldg.
Witnesses: Alan S. Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs, Princeton University
Joel Prakken, chairman, Macroeconomic Advisors
Ike Brannon, director of economic policy, American Action Forum
Webcast: http://budget.senate.gov/

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What glum Americans are missing about our standing in the world

January 20th, 2012 · 2 Comments

By Tim Roemer, Published: January 19

The writer, a former U.S. representative from Indiana who served on the Sept. 11 Commission, is a senior vice president at APCO Worldwide.

When I went to serve as U.S. ambassador to India in 2009, I hoped to learn more about that country’s vibrant democracy and our shared values. I gained an additional benefit while overseas: I learned that America is still deeply admired around the world and the place where many people want to live out their dreams. Consequently, I have been appalled by the gloom of those predicting that America’s greatest days are behind us. These sentiments seep through our society, from pundits to parents at my daughter’s basketball game, as people complain they are “despondent” and “depressed” that our children will be left behind by the United States’ “decline.”

Frustration at current conditions is understandable. Millions of Americans are out of work. Our trade deficit runs about $44 billion per month. The news is filled with stories of greed and corruption. Congress is paralyzed by partisanship. Meanwhile, we hear that India and China are outpacing us in infrastructure, technology and manufacturing capability, and investment.

But living overseas, I saw that ours is not the only country facing profound challenges. Most major powers are experiencing similar or bigger problems. True, we feel the pain of our setbacks and fear that we are losing ground. Yet when I met Indian students at schools or living in slums, they consistently told me America is the place where they most want to study. Rather than underselling our historical record and natural resiliency, we must build on these assets.

The United States has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, a per capita gross domestic product of $47,200 and a gross national purchasing power that equals those of China andJapan. Our national economy is bigger than those of Russia, Britain, Brazil, France and Italy combined.

Our huge GDP is no accident. We have a market-oriented economy where most decisions are made independently by individuals and individual businesses. From Robert Fulton to Thomas Edison to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, inventions spring from our labs, universities and garages, and eventually propel world growth. Meanwhile, in China, government still peers over the shoulder of inventors and ordinary Internet users. India still fights a legacy of corruption in too many places, at too many levels. In Europe, red tape has stifled many small businesses.

During a meeting in Mumbai with three dozen business millionaires in their twenties and thirties, I asked a simple question: Which market would you most like to access? Almost unanimously, the answer was the United States. U.S. companies remain world leaders in information technology, bioscience, nanotechnology and aerospace. The evidence is clear not only in the development of products such as the iPad and iPhone but also in new patents. Last year, U.S. firms captured more than 50 percent of all U.S. patents; they received twice as many corporate patents as Japan, which came in second.

Yes, our high schools need to do better, as reading and math scores and dropout rates show. But when it comes to higher education, we remain a beacon of success. Four of the world’s top five universities, and seven of the top 10, listed in last year’s Times Global Higher Education Rankings are in the United States. Americans have won 333 Nobel prizes, almost triple the number of Britons, the runner-up. In the past three years, Americans have won Nobel prizes in such critical fields as economics, physics, medicine and chemistry.

Even immigration, a topic of some tension, continues to enhance our competitiveness. Highly capable and legal immigrants flock to our country — aiming not for Ellis Island but Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle Park. As researchers at Duke and the University of California at Berkeley showed in 2007, 25 percent of U.S. tech and engineering start-ups between 1995 and 2005 had one or more immigrant key founders, whose companies collectively generated an estimated $52 billion in 2005 sales and created nearly 450,000 jobs.

Since the time of railroads and canals, our often-maligned federal government has invested in vital research in early phases for developing technologies, such as the Internet and energy technology, helping build a head start for the next generation of U.S. industry.

Other advantages include our positive demographic growth pattern, our environmental protections of water and natural resources, and, as demonstrated by the smooth operation that took out Osama bin Laden, incredible military skill.

This country faces real challenges, including a growing deficit, crumbling infrastructure and unsustainable entitlement spending. Addressing these issues will require leadership to meet the times, as happened during the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II and the civil rights era. Leaders need to exhibit the spirit captured by Theodore Roosevelt when he reminded us that “aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.”

My experience in India reinforced the perspective of America’s image as a country of tomorrow. We should be heartened, not distressed, by the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. These activists remind us our country is worth fighting for. During this election year, we have the renewed opportunity to channel our feelings about country — love, fear, anger and hope — into action to transform problems into solutions and move closer toward a more perfect union.

More from PostOp

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How to create new jobs, spur innovation – The Hill’s Congress Blog

January 19th, 2012 · 1 Comment

How to create new jobs, spur innovation – The Hill’s Congress Blog.

On the surface, last month’s economic indicators introduce a dose of positivity into the market: the private sector added 200,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent, its lowest point since February 2009. But take a closer look and you’ll see that small businesses are still struggling to catch up, as tight access to credit continues to hinder business expansion. The precipitous drop in home prices has made it very difficult for small businesses to use home equity mortgages as a source of business credit, making them more heavily reliant on banks for private capital.

Making matters worse, 60 percent of small business bank loan applications were denied in 2011, leaving small businesses with few options for expansion and job creation. Yet, the outlook for small businesses appears mixed. A National Federation of Independent Business’ November survey reported its best results in years, finding 24 percent of small business owners were planning capital expenditures and only 7 percent planning to hire.  With small businesses normally accounting for 60 percent of new jobs in the economic recovery, improving access to private capital is the key to a sustainable and robust economic recovery.

In exquisite timing, a Senate and House duo of bills would help by allowing credit unions, in aggregate, to increase the amount they can loan by $13 billion. Legislation in the House (H.R. 1418) and in the Senate (S. 509) would increase the percentage of credit union assets that may be loaned to its member businesses. Lending is capped at 12.25 percent, but the proposal would increase it to 27.5 percent, subject to safeguards and monitoring. For a welcome change, these bills are not about taxes, entitlements or government subsidies.  Instead, they are about private sector jobs, small business expansion and benefits to credit union members through competition with banks. Competition, in turn, will encourage banks to ease up on credit, further opening up small business access to capital, which will encourage investment and creating jobs.

The safeguards assure that credit unions have the experience and talent to handle business loans, and at the same time make sure that lending to members is not neglected by pursuit of higher yield business loans. Credit unions have a long track record of lending wisely, and their percentage of loan losses is regularly lower than banks’ track record.  Done right, a portfolio that’s one-quarter business loans can benefit the credit union members, the small businesses who borrow, and the public who will see an additional 140,000 new jobs as a result of this business credit improvement.

Since credit union “profits” go back to members in the form of lower cost services and loans, members should  especially welcome the improvement.Providing increased access to private capital would provide a much needed spark to businesses that are very small, innovative and more diverse.  According to the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, over half of small businesses are home-based; they generate nearly 17 times more patents per employee than large businesses; and they include 8 million women-owned, 6 million minority-owned, and 2.4 million veteran-owned firms.  Having access to private capital is necessary to spurring investment and innovation, stimulating economic output and creating jobs – all without increasing federal debt.

For consumers, the bigger picture is that improving small business access to capital, as the legislation proposes, would create a significant number of private sector jobs, require no government funding, and foster more competition between banks and credit unions.

Indeed, Congress can get it right when it tries.

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Most Home-Based Businesses Start for Less Than $5,000

January 18th, 2012 · 1 Comment

By: Chad Brooks, BusinessNewsDaily Contributor

A new report fromCreditDonkey.comshows it takes less than $5,000 for most home-based business owners to get up and running.

The research, which details where small-business owners got their startup capital, found that while the average cost of starting a home-based business was $25,000, 39 percent of owners said it took less than $5,000, with another 25 percent not needing any startup financing at all.

According to the report, small-business owners needing money turned to a number of sources, such as:

  • Personal/family savings – 60 percent
  • Credit cards – 10 percent
  • Business loans from a bank – 7 percent
  • Home equity loan – 4 percent

In order to get up and running, CreditDonkey says there are several expenses entrepreneurs can expect to pay, including legal fees and licenses, marketing, supplies and equipment, insurance and professional and merchant services.

While it might not take much money to get started, the report shows most home-based businesses don’t generate much money, either, with 57 percent bringing in less than $25,000 a year.

For those looking to take the plunge, experts at CreditDonkey.com offer several tips for aspiring home business owners:

  • Bill and receive payments as quickly as possible, and follow up on overdue accounts in order to keep the cash flow moving.
  • Have customers pay by credit card to help reduce the chances of default.
  • Don’t use a business credit cardto finance large startup expenses. Instead, use them for smaller purchases, such as supplies and equipment.
  • Make sure enough money is being set aside for all tax obligations.

CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website that based its research on statistics and information from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Lending to Small Business up 18% in 2011

January 12th, 2012 · 1 Comment

By Andrew Chow at FindLaw.com

Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:06pm EST

In a possible sign of economic recovery, small-business lending hit a four-year high in November, a new report shows. At the same time, the number of small-business loans in delinquency declined.

The results are revealed in the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index that tracks the overall volume of small-business financing, Reuters reports.

The lending index jumped by 18% between November 2010 and November 2011. It’s now at its highest level since February 2008.

The surge shows “a new phase of the business cycle,” PayNet’s founder told Reuters. “Businesses are betting on the future with increased investment spending.”

The demand for small-business loans is rising as sales increase and businesses become more creditworthy, one small-business lending broker told The Wall Street Journal. That’s positive news, since more than 60% of small-business loan applications were denied in 2011, the Journal reports.

But obstacles remain. Some banks are now imposing higher interest rates on small-business owners who pay off their balances in monthly installments instead of all at once, the Journalreports.

Still, the Thomson Reuters/PayNet survey shows more small business owners are taking charge of their debts. The number of loans in “moderate delinquency” (behind by 30 days or more) and “severe delinquency” (behind by 90 days or more) both declined in November to 1.5% and 0.39%, respectively, Reuters reports.

The Small Business Lending Index mirrors other economic indicators that seem to suggest a recovery, Reuters reports. For example, the annual pace of economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2011 is expected to top 3% — up from 1.8% in the third quarter.

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Plain language in federal regulation comes closer

January 10th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Plain language in federal regulation comes closer

Federal regulations can be a maze to navigate, but the federal government this week took further steps to streamlining jargon in an effort to make rules more accessible to citizens.

Writing on the OMBlog, Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, discussed the progress the government has made in breaking down complex and lofty language, thus making regulations more comprehensible. The concern, Sunstein said, is bipartisan and comes from businesses, public interest groups and “countless individual citizens.”

After President Barack Obama took office in 2010, he directed rules to be written in plain language to make them easy to understand. He also said regulations “shall be adopted through a process that involves public participation,” including an “open exchange of information and perspectives,” Sunstein writes.

After the passage of the Plain Writing Act of 2010, agencies began concentrated efforts to paring down rhetoric. Today, many agencies have a website dedicated to plain language and have tasked specific officials with overseeing plain writing efforts.

Building on that effort to strip regulation language, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on Jan 4 directed agencies to provide the public with straightforward executive summaries of all rules. With separate descriptions of all key provisions and policy choices, these summaries will detail the need for the rule and explain its legal basis.

“The use of clear, simple executive summaries will make it far easier for members of the public to understand and to scrutinize proposed rules – and thus help to improve them,” Sunstein wrote. “And for final rules, such summaries will make it far easier for people to understand what they are being asked to do.”

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The U.S. Senate ties up loose ends

January 6th, 2012 · Comments Off

The U.S. Senate ties up loose ends.

One of the things I couldn’t tell you about when it happened has to do with my friend, Dr. Winslow Sargeant (who is not Kellen Winslow and has never played for the San Diego Chargers), Chief Counsel of the SBA Office of Advocacy.

The sad saga of Dr. Sargeant’s nomination to the Chief Counsel spot and the small minded Senate politics with which that nomination was greeted, theresulting standoff and delay, and President Obama’s final decision to resort to a recess appointment in order to get him installed have been pretty thoroughly hashed out in previous posts here at The Journal Blog and at the Microbusiness News Briefs.

I thought the story was over … until I received a certain press communication from the SBA in November.

The release essentially said that the Senate had finally confirmed Dr. Sargeant’s nomination to Chief Counsel of the SBA Office of Advocacy. After sitting in the Chief Counsel chair for sixteen months, doing the job and doing it well, the Senate finally decided to make it official.

Better late than never, I suppose.

From a practical point of view, none of this matters, of course. The nation’s small and microbusinesses have been benefiting from Dr. Sargeant’s championship for all this time anyway, such that we all managed to successfully forget that he hadn’t been confirmed by the Senate yet. I don’t know that this official blessing of what he’s been doing all along will make all that much of a difference on a day-to-day basis.

We won’t tell those Senators about that, though. It might make the cry.

It is my earnest hope to be able to persuade Dr. Sargeant to join me for a Microbusiness Conversation sometime this month. We probably won’t talk much about the Senate (I don’t want to get him in trouble), but we probably will be talking about what he’s been doing all this time without Senate approval. I hope you’ll be able to listen in.

Meanwhile, if there is anything to be learned from this entire tale, is is this: if you’re going to pay attention to what goes on in Washington, first develop a sense of humor.

Otherwise, you’ll end up with an ulcer.

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EEOC Launches Small Business Task Force

December 29th, 2011 · 1 Comment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has launched an internal task force that will focus on expanding and improving outreach and technical assistance to small businesses. The Small Business Task Force, led by Commissioner Constance S. Barker, will work to find ways in which the agency could better collaborate with the small business community to ensure compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.  The laws enforced by the EEOC apply to employers who meet the threshold number of employees for coverage. (EEOC’s website spells out who the laws apply to.)

The Small Business Task Force plans to focus on newly established small businesses and those that are too small to afford lawyers or human resource personnel.  The task force will work during 2012 to develop recommendations to the commission, which will be presented in a public commission meeting.

The task force will, among other things, develop recommendations on how to:

  • Utilize new technology to expand outreach to small businesses;
  • Develop technical assistance and training initiatives for small businesses;
  • Identify specialized approaches to aid small businesses owned by women and minorities;
  • Identify specialized approaches for micro businesses, generally those with 50 or fewer employees; and
  • Enhance small business information and training on the EEOC’s web site.

The commission invites members of the public to submit written input on the task force. Public comments may be e-mailed to smallbusiness@eeoc.gov.

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NLRB Postpones Effective Date of Rights Posting Rule to April 30

December 28th, 2011 · Comments Off

The National Labor Relations Board has agreed to postpone the effective date of its employee rights notice-posting rule at the request of the federal court in Washington, D.C., hearing a legal challenge regarding the rule. The Board’s ruling states that it has determined that postponing the effective date of the rule would facilitate the resolution of the legal challenges that have been filed with respect to the rule. The new implementation date is April 30, 2012.  

Most private sector employers will be required to post the 11-by-17-inch notice on the new implementation date of April 30. The notice is available at no cost from the NLRB, which has additional information on posting requirements and NLRB jurisdiction.

For more information, contact the NLRB Office of Public Affairs, 202-273-1991 or publicinfo@nlrb.gov.

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Postponed — See Dec 28 Entry

December 22nd, 2011 · Comments Off

(Was: Deadline Looms for Posting Employee Rights per National Labor Relations Act)

As of January 31, 2012, most private sector employers must post a notice of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act at their worksites. The notice is free and can be downloaded and printed in multiple languages from the National Labor Relations Board website at www.nlrb.gov/poster, which has further information on how and where to post. Printed notices may also be ordered by mail by filling out a form at the web address or by calling 202-273-0064. The agency has prepared a jurisdictional guide to help employers know whether they are covered by the law, available here.

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Invention Is the Mother of Economic Growth

December 21st, 2011 · 1 Comment

 Invention Is the Mother of Economic Growth: Nathan Myhrvold

By Nathan Myhrvold – Dec 19, 2011

One reason “dismal science” aptly describes economics is that it so often winds up in a zero-sum trade-off of diminishing returns. That gets depressing when the global economy is in a sorry state, as it is now.

Most economists gloomily advise us to just tough it out. No magical solution can save us.

I submit that the situation is not as bleak as it seems. Yes, Virginia, there is a magical engine for economic growth. It is invention — the process by which the human mind creates new ideas with practical consequences. Invention is magical because the magnitude of the output can exceed by almost infinite measure the magnitude of the inputs. A single great idea can generate enormous transformations, economic and otherwise.

Unlike almost all other forms of human economic activity, inventing is not limited by a law of diminishing returns. It comes with no dismal trade-offs.

Invention and its weaker cousin, innovation, are ultimately the source of all wealth and luxuries. In the age of Kindles and smartphones, we are surrounded by obviously invented products. But “traditional” society, too, was built by the accumulation of past inventions. Earth now supports 7 billion humans only because our ancestors invented agriculture — and subsequent inventors continually improved it century after century. We live far longer and better lives than our great-grandparents did because clever doctors invented medicines, therapies and public- health measures. The invention of steel and concrete built our world, and the invention of democracy governs it.

Economic Pulse

The economy of the world is not based on the simple interplay of capital and labor. Sure, these are involved. But they are secondary characteristics, not fundamental ones. Macroeconomists are often said to have their fingers on the pulse of the economy, and that’s an apt analogy. A pulse is a decent secondary indicator of life because blood flow is one prerequisite for the body’s survival. But the pulse is a weak and incomplete measure of life. A brain-dead patient, after all, may have a pulse even though the person’s life is over. Conversely, a machine can drive a pulse without giving life.

So while it’s all well and good to measure the flow of capital and the markets for labor, don’t mistake this data for the forces that really drive growth, which are inventions (or, if you prefer, ideas) and the ways that they are made real. In response to these forces, capital is deployed and labor is expended.

Physics is obsessed with conservation laws; mass and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Economics, on the other hand, obsesses about growth and recession, in which economic value is explicitly created and destroyed. Invention is, directly or indirectly, a primary source of the value we call growth.

Yet economists give invention short shrift. That is partly because they are still hazy about the origin of inventions. I find talking to economists about invention’s role in the economy a bit like talking to fourth graders about where children come from. A smart fourth grader can tell you all about how kids progress through elementary school. They can even tell you about infants, and that mommy’s belly gets big before one appears. But how and why the spark of conception occurs may be a mystery.

Economists similarly expend great effort documenting the development of products. A few can tell you what inventions look like in their infancy, but even these experts don’t yet understand the spark of inventive conception.

Invention is also frequently overlooked where its role is subtle. In some parts of the world, new ideas arrive slowly and mainly by importation, but they still have great impact. Subsistence farming in Africa, for example, may not seem to be an invention-related activity, but it is. Three key inventions – - corn in Mesoamerica; the process of cultivating and detoxifying cassava in South America; and pastoral cow herding in Central Asia — feed much of Africa. Those inventions were imported and adapted long ago, and African subsistence farmers couldn’t survive today without them.

Power of Invention

Moreover, that the poorer parts of the world have adopted so few new ideas isn’t just a symptom of the economic problems there — it is the root cause.

It’s interesting to look back at 19th-century America to see the transformative power of invention. Back then, the U.S. was considered a lawless, developing country of subsistence farmers. Early in the century, the country became embroiled in war with the greatest power of the time, and half a century later it got tangled up in a brutal civil war. American government could be deeply corrupt (think of Tammany Hall in New York City), and its state of development ranged crazily from European-influenced Manhattan to the anarchic Wild West. Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured America at the time, shook his head at horrible urban slums, sweatshop child labor, slavery and persecution (or worse) of the indigenous population.

At its best, America in the 19th century was like Brazil today, although in many ways Brazil is far more civil and sophisticated. At its worst, 19th-century America was the heart of darkness.

And yet it was during this time that the U.S. became the world’s greatest inventing nation. Samuel Morse helped create the telegraph; Eli Whitney, the cotton gin; and Thomas Edison, the light bulb, phonograph and movies. Europe remained the center of learning, culture, technology and industrial prowess, but within several generations, Europe found itself relying on the U.S. for high-tech inventions.

Talented inventors the world over flocked to the new hotbed of creativity — Alexander Graham Bell from Canada, Nikola Tesla and Charles Steinmetz from Europe, among many others. It was a stunning transformation. Imagine Brazil suddenly becoming the world’s leading source of new technology, and you get the idea.

If inventing is the driver of economic growth, then it follows that those regions fostering the creation and exploitation of new inventions will enjoy prosperity. The poster child for this phenomenon is Silicon Valley, where academic and commercial inventors, assisted by venture capitalists and other supporting players, nurture the most dynamic environment in the world for generating businesses.

Silicon Valley

What we now call Silicon Valley had origins as inauspicious as those of the U.S. more broadly. A sleepy agricultural area with no industrial or business base worth mentioning, its most notable asset was a university set up by Leland Stanford, a 19th- century robber baron. And even that wasn’t unique: public universities grace every state, and private universities dot the landscape, yet none has fostered an invention engine like Silicon Valley.

So, why did this area, and America more broadly, succeed in creating invention-friendly climates when others failed? The secret remains maddeningly elusive. The track record of other places that have tried to set up their own versions of Silicon Valley — and there are many — is poor. Policy makers have pulled all the levers they have, from lower tax rates to favorable zoning laws to research-and-development support, but none of these really sparks invention. These incentives may attract big companies, startups and venture capital, all of which are ingredients in an invention-based ecosystem, but they’re not sufficient to stimulate the magic.

I’d like to report that someone has figured out a formula for harnessing the power of invention. Alas, that is not the case. If someone can, it would be, in many respects, one of the most important inventions in history because it would allow us to craft the economy we want.

(Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief strategist and chief technology officer at Microsoft Corp. and the founder and chief executive officer of Intellectual Ventures, is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this article: Nathan Myhrvold at nathanmyhrvold@hotmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Mary Duenwald at mduenwald@bloomberg.net

→ 1 CommentTags: Research & Statistics

Appleton (Wisconsin) Post Crescent: More college students looking at entrepreneurship

December 20th, 2011 · 1 Comment

More college students looking at entrepreneurship 

Fremont resident Casey Miller is confident five years from now she will have her own business.

Since she enjoys cooking, it likely will be a restaurant or bakery. But unlike many other entrepreneurs before her, she doesn’t intend to just seek a bank loan, find a place to set up shop and hope it succeeds.

Miller, 20, has been gaining real-world experience as a cook the past five years at the Hotel Fremont. In the spring, she will graduate from Fox Valley Technical College with an associate’s degree in business management with an entrepreneurial emphasis. Enrollment in the program, which currently totals 78 students, has risen 20 percent in the past three years.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to have my own business, but I know to be successful, you have to go about it the right way,” said Miller, who plans to earn another degree at FVTC in culinary arts within the next two years. “I just don’t want to jump into something.” 

The nation’s colleges are responding to the growing interest among students like Miller who aspire to be entrepreneurs. The Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership reports that more than 1,500 colleges and universities offer some sort of entrepreneurship training today.There are more than 100 university-based entrepreneurship centers across the country and more than 270 endowed positions in entrepreneurship, a 120 percent increase during the past five years, the Kauffman Center said.

Across northeastern Wisconsin, plenty of educational options exist for people interested in focusing their college experience on what it takes to launch a business.

Lakeland College offers an undergraduate class in entrepreneurial management as part of a business management major.The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay this year began offering a 12-credit, four-course entrepreneurship certificate program to its undergraduates. Nineteen students enrolled — several more than the college was expecting for a new program

→ 1 CommentTags: Research & Statistics · State and Regional

FWS and NOAA Propose to define the phrase “significant portion of its range” under the Endangered Species Act; a portion is “significant” if it is essential to the viability of the species

December 19th, 2011 · Comments Off

On December 9, 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed a policy defining the phrase “significant portion of its range” under the Endangered Species Act.  A portion of the range of a species is “significant’’ if its contribution is so important that without that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction.  The range of a species is considered to be the general geographical area within which that species can be found at the time FWS or NOAA makes any particular status determination. Comments are due by February 7, 2012.

Notice of draft policy from the Federal Register
Advocacy contact: Kia Dennis at 202-205-6936
Submit Comments Electronically
Regulations.gov, the Federal government’s one stop site to comment on Federal regulations

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Quarterly Indicators: The Economy and Small Business

December 16th, 2011 · Comments Off

Advocacy releases its Small Business Quarterly Bulletin for the third quarter of 2011.  The brochure-style publication contains commentary and analysis on the current employment and financing trends of small businesses.  The bulletin shows economic variables related to small business trending up. 

If you need further information, please feel free to contact Brian Headd at the Office of Advocacy at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov

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Mentors give business owners a boost

December 15th, 2011 · Comments Off

DE KALB (IL) DAILY CHRONICLE — Mentors give business owners a boost

By NICOLE WESKERNA – nweskerna@shawmedia.com
Created: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 5:30 a.m. CST 

SYCAMORE – If it weren’t for a group of business-minded volunteers, Ursula Dargis doubts she’d be in business today.

She said her startup business isn’t just surviving in one of the toughest economies in decades – it’s thriving. 

Dargis – a senior recruiter for her business, Sycamore Technical Recruiters – credits a lot of her success to the help of SCORE Fox Valley mentors who have been at her side since late 2009, shortly after she started running her business out of her home. 

In the two years she’s been in business, Dargis has moved her office twice to accommodate her growing company and its new employees. In 2010, she hired another senior recruiter, Owen Wilkins, as well as a technical recruiter, Mallory Howes. They recruit workers with specialized skills, with a concentration on the chemical and food industries.

 “We had the drive, the urgency and the determination, but we didn’t know how to make it a real business,” Dargis said. “I don’t think we would have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for SCORE.” 

SCORE is a nonprofit organization tied to the Small Business Administration that, free of charge, partners experienced business mentors with owners of startup, struggling or expanding businesses. Volunteer mentors such as Dennis Sester help business owners map out business plans, figure out when to expand and secure bank loans. 

Sester is a mentor for SCORE and chairman of the organization’s workshop committee. He  and another mentor helped Dargis and Wilkins set realistic goals for their company to succeed. Sester said SCORE determined right away that Dargis and Wilkins were passionate and driven enough to jump into running a business. 

Dargis and Wilkins had never set up a firm business plan before. They looked to their mentors  when it came to nailing down details such as securing funding and filing the proper tax forms. 

“Their minds were already on, ‘This is what’s missing from your business plan,’” Wilkins said. “Without thinking critically, especially in this economic climate, it’s hard to get off the ground.” 

Wilkins and Dargis have met with their mentors seven times and corresponded through email since they started their business. Not only did SCORE mentors help them put their business plans in motion, but Dargis said mentors also held them accountable and had high expectations of them, which she said pushed them to succeed. 

They continue to meet quarterly with Sester, who worked for more than 30 years as a corporate vice president with Motorola before retiring in 2002. He’s now one of 92 mentors who work out of the Fox Valley SCORE chapter, which serves DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties. The national SCORE program has 13,000 mentors, Sester said. 

“Those of us who have been active all our lives still want to keep active,” Sester said. “It’s an opportunity to help people.” 

He estimates personally mentoring 150-200 individual business owners since joining SCORE six years ago. In some cases, he helps businesses expand; in others, he helps businesses survive. He also coordinates workshops for entrepreneurs to learn the basics of running a small business. 

With the help of SCORE mentors, Dargis and Wilkins had a solid and realistic business plan in place. 

“If we hadn’t sought out that type of advice from SCORE, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Wilkins said. “We probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.”

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WASHINGTON POST — Commentary: The economy needs small business

December 14th, 2011 · 1 Comment

By Todd McCracken and Dan Danner
December 11 

In the past few months, there has been an influx of sentiment claiming that small businesses aren’t really that important to the U.S. economy and that politicians spend far too much time worrying about small business. 

As the heads of the leading national small-business organizations in the United States, we will be the first to agree that politicians do seem to love talking about small business. But that’s just talk. What matters, and what these opinion pieces seem to forget, is that very little actually has been done to directly help small business recover from this recession. Our members continue to struggle with myriad issues.

This anti-small-business rhetoric rests on some false assumptions, namely that small businesses don’t really create that many jobs. Ask any local Washington area small-business owner and he or she will tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. To dispel some of these myths, we’d like to share some facts about small business from those of us who understand it best. 

Fact: Most people do work for a small business. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles data that shows — without question — that firms with fewer than 500 workers employ about 55 percent of all private-sector workers. Looking to a smaller threshold of 250 employees, small firms still account for 48 percent of private-sector employment. When you consider that there are around 70 million people working for or running a small business, that’s huge. 

Fact: Small businesses do fuel job growth. 

According to data from BLS, from 1992 to 2007, firms with fewer than 500 employees created 64 percent of all net new jobs — this number accounts for small-business job losses as well as job gains and is truly the only accurate way to look at the overall picture. The Great Recession hit in late 2007, and the unemployment rate began to rise and remains stubbornly high to this day. Why? Small businesses are struggling to create jobs amid economic and political uncertainty. Small businesses are the key to job growth and giving them the tools they need to create jobs is paramount to economic recovery. 

Fact: Regulations do impact small firms more than big business. 

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, small businesses pay a disproportionately high cost to comply with federal regulations — 36 percent higher than larger businesses.

 Fact: Self-employed firms do, in fact, provide employment

 In many criticisms of small business, there is a huge oversight: self-employed individuals. There are millions of self-employed firms that do not have employees and therefore do not count toward typical IRS payroll data. But make no mistake — these self-employed individuals are just that — “employed” and, by the way, pay the “payroll” taxes of both employer and employee. 

Fact: Small businesses do drive the U.S. economy. 

Small businesses create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product, and make up 97.3 percent of all U.S. exporters.

 The fact of the matter is that small firms face huge challenges every day but continue to start, run and grow. However, the more difficult we as a country make it for people to start a business, the less likely it is people will want to do it. We’re already seeing today the implications this holds in the form of lagging job growth.

 That’s bad for business and bad for the U.S. economy.

 McCracken is president and chief executive of the National Small Business Association and Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business. Other contributors were Kristie Arslan, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed; Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council; John Satagaj, president and general counsel of the Small Business Legislative Council; and John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority.

→ 1 CommentTags: Regulatory Policy · Research & Statistics

Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of December 12, 2011

December 13th, 2011 · Comments Off

Each week while Congress is in session the Office of Advocacy will post a highlights schedule of congressional hearings and committee markups that we think will be of interest to stakeholders in the small business community. For further information on the hearings in question please contact the relevant congressional committee.

THIS WEEK

The House and the Senate are both in session this week and they may be in this weekend trying to wrap up their busy schedules. 

The House and the Senate are working to end an impasse over a payroll tax cut extension. They will also continue to work on the $900 billion omnibus package. Lawmakers are under pressure to act on a deal before Dec. 16th, when stopgap appropriations provided under an earlier fiscal 2012 package expire.

HEARING AND MARKUP SCHEDULE

Wednesday, December 14th  

9:30 a.m.          Subcommittee Hearing   
Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee of Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining Investor Risks in Capital Raising.”
Location: 538 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast: http://banking.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.        Full Committee Markup  
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will mark up pending legislation.
Location: 253 Russell Bldg.
Legislation: S 1449 — A bill to authorize the appropriation of funds for highway safety programs and for other purposes.
S 1952 — A bill to improve hazardous materials transportation safety and for other purposes.
S 1953 — A bill to reauthorize the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, to improve transportation research and development, and for other purposes.
S 1950 — A bill to amend Title 49, United States Code, to improve commercial motor vehicle safety and reduce commercial motor vehicle-related accidents and fatalities, to authorize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and for other purposes.
Webcast: http://commerce.senate.gov

10:00 a.m.        Subcommittee Hearing    
Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing titled “Integrated Planning and Permitting: An Opportunity for EPA to Provide Communities with Flexibility to Make Smart Investments in Water Quality.”
Location: 2167 Rayburn Bldg.
Webcast:  http://transportation.house.gov/

Thursday, December 15th

10:00 a.m.        Full Committee Joint Hearing
Senate Environment and Public Works Full Committee  and Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing titled “Review of the NRC’s [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] Near-Term Task Force Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century.”
Location: 406 Dirksen Bldg.
Webcast:  http://epw.senate.gov

10:30 a.m.        Subcommittee Hearing
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the environmental risks of genetically engineered fish.
Location: 253 Russell Bldg.
Webcast:  http://commerce.senate.gov

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is requesting comments on potential locations for future USPTO satellite offices that the USPTO is directed to establish, subject to available resources, under Section 23 of the America Invents Act (AIA).

December 9th, 2011 · Comments Off

The establishment of satellite offices is an important component of the USPTO’s continued efforts to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce, reduce patent application pendency and improve quality, and enhance communication between the USPTO and the patent applicant community.  An initial satellite office is already planned to be established in Detroit, Michigan.  Subject to available resources, the USPTO will establish at least two more satellite offices in addition to the one in Detroit in accordance with the AIA. Written comments are requested on or before January 30, 2012. No public hearing will be held.  Submit comments electronically by email directly to the USPTO at satelliteoffices@uspto.gov

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Advocacy Comments on the Livestock Traceability Rule

December 8th, 2011 · Comments Off

On December 5, 2011 the Office of Advocacy (Advocacy) filed public comments with the Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on the proposed rule entitled Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate. A copy of Advocacy’s comments may be viewed at www.sba.gov/advocacy.

  • On August 11, 2011, APHIS published a proposed rule establishing national official identification and documentation requirements for the traceability of livestock moving interstate. Under the proposed rule, livestock, such as cattle and poultry, that are moved in interstate transit are required to be officially identified with a tag and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation.
  • APHIS concluded that this rule will not have a significant economic effect on a significant number of small businesses.
  • Advocacy has heard from small businesses in the poultry industry that this rule will have a significant economic effect and may lead to many small poultry business closures.
  • Advocacy encourages APHIS to reach out to small businesses in the industry to obtain more accurate information and publish an IRFA discussing the costs of this rule to small businesses in each of the industries that will be affected.  

For more information, visit Advocacy’s website at http://www.sba.gov/advocacy or contact Kia Dennis at 202-205-6936.

Comments OffTags: Regulatory Policy

Small Business Subcontracting

December 6th, 2011 · Comments Off

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is reopening the comment period for the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on October 5, 2011 at 76 FR 61626. In that rule SBA proposed to amend its regulations to implement provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (Jobs Act) pertaining to small business subcontracting.

SBA proposed to amend its program regulations to provide that for a “covered contract” (a contract for which a small business subcontracting plan is required, currently valued above $1.5 million for construction and $650,000 for all other contracts), a prime contractor must notify the contracting officer in writing whenever the prime contractor does not utilize a subcontractor used in preparing its bid or proposal during contract performance. SBA also proposed to require a prime contractor to notify a contracting officer in writing whenever the prime contractor reduces payments to a subcontractor or when payments to a subcontractor are 90 days or more past due.

In addition, SBA proposed to clarify that the contracting officer is responsible for monitoring and evaluating small business subcontracting plan performance. SBA also proposed to clarify which subcontracts must be included in subcontracting data reporting, which subcontracts should be excluded, and the way subcontracting data is reported.

SBA also proposed to make other changes to update its subcontracting regulations, including changing subcontracting plan thresholds and referencing the electronic subcontracting reporting system (eSRS). Some of the SBA’s proposed changes would require the contracting officer to review subcontracting plan reports within 60 days of the report ending date.

Finally, SBA also proposed to address how subcontracting plan requirements and credit towards subcontracting goals can be implemented in connection with Multi-agency, Federal Supply Schedule, Multiple Award Schedule and Government-wide Acquisition indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, (IDIQ) contracts.

SBA is reopening the comment period in response to the significant level of interest generated by the proposed rule among small businesses. Given the scope of the proposed rule and the nature of the issues raised by the comments received to date, SBA believes that affected businesses need more time to review the proposal and prepare their comments. The comment period for the proposed rule published on October 5, 2011 (76 FR 61626) is extended through January 6, 2012.

  • Proposed rule from the Federal Register
  • Advocacy contact: Major Clark, 202-205-6533
  • Submit comments electronically: http://www.regulations.gov (identify submissions by RIN: 3245-AG22)
  • Submit comments by mail (paper, disk, or CD/ROM) or hand delivery: Dean Koppel, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Government Contracting, 409 Third Street SW., 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20416. Hand Delivery/Courier: Dean Koppel, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Government Contracting, 409 Third Street SW., 8th Floor Washington, DC 20416

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Capitol Hill Connection for the Week of December 5

December 6th, 2011 · Comments Off

THIS WEEK

The House and Senate are both in session this week.

The House has votes scheduled on a bill to require more consideration of major new regulations and another to bar the EPA from regulating farm dust.

The Senate has a few judicial votes planned.  Senior lawmakers are working behind the scenes to reach an agreement on year-end spending and revenue measures.

Tuesday, December 6th

10:00 a.m.       Full Committee Oversight Hearing
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Continued Oversight of the Implementation of the Wall Street Reform Act [PL 111-203].”
Location: 538 Dirksen Bldg.
Witnesses: Neal S. Wolin, deputy secretary of the Treasury
Daniel K. Tarullo, member, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Mary Schapiro, chairwoman, Securities and Exchange Commission
Gary Gensler, chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Martin J. Gruenberg, acting chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
John Walsh, acting comptroller of the currency
Webcast: http://banking.senate.gov

Thursday, December 7th

2:00 p.m.         Subcommittee Hearing
Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on enhanced supervision, focusing on a new regime for regulating large, complex financial institutions.
Location: 538 Dirksen Bldg.Witnesses: Sheila Bair, senior adviser, Pew Charitable Trusts and former chairwoman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 2006-11Simon Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of ManagementPhilip L. Swagel, professor of international economic policy, University of Maryland School of Public Policy
Arthur E. Wilmarth Jr., professor of law and executive director, Center for Law, Economics and Finance (C-LEAF), George Washington University Law School
Webcast:  http://banking.senate.gov

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Entrepreneurs in Spurring Job Creation

December 5th, 2011 · Comments Off

Posted by Ellen Kim on December 01, 2011 at 10:18 AM EST

National Entrepreneurship Month is a perfect time to celebrate the immigrant innovators who have always played a major role in growing the American economy – from the Russian-born Sergey Brin (founder of technology giant Google in a California garage) to the Spanish-born Prudencio and Carolina Unanue (founders of Goya, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the US).

When I attended business school a few years ago, over 35% of my classmates were international.  Many of us were back in graduate school with a goal of pursuing entrepreneurship. Not only were my international classmates coming to the U.S. because they knew we offered the best graduate school education, many also had dreams of starting a company in the U.S.

Today, many are doing just that.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Agro Farma, Inc. and producer of Chobani yogurt – now a $700 million business – is one success story and example of an SBA loan recipient.  With an SBA 504 loan, Hamdi was able to purchase a Kraft Foods plant in August 2005 and by 2007 he had shipped his first order of Chobani yogurt.  Less than four years later, Agro Farma has grown to 670 employees running three full-time shifts and producing 1.2 million cases of Chobani weekly.

Hamdi’s story is like many others.  From Austin to Boston, immigrants are overcoming barriers in order to stay here and create good jobs across industry sectors and across geographies.

An SBA Office of Advocacy report from November 2008 cites that immigrants made up 12.2 percent of the total U.S. workforce and owned 10.8 percent of all businesses with employees.  The total business income generated by immigrant business owners was $67 billion, representing 11.6 percent of all business income in the United States.  Also, immigrants are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business than are non-immigrants.

As part of the White House Startup America initiative, the Obama Administration has taken action to reduce barriers facing immigrant entrepreneurs, from allowing more talented science and math graduates to stay in the country longer to making it easier to start a company in the U.S.  Just last month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative that will draw on the skills of business experts to fully realize the job-creating potential of current immigration law in order to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors and entrepreneurs.

That’s because we need more stories of risk-takers like Hamdi Ulukaya.  I know that there are international students – and immigrants throughout the U.S. – who are ready to follow in their footsteps.  Let’s continue to take the steps to support all entrepreneurs who want to build a business and create good American jobs.

Ellen Kim is a Senior Advisor in the Office of Investment and Innovation at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Comments OffTags: Research & Statistics · Uncategorized

Advocacy Recommends That DHS Consider Changes to Proposed Ammonium Nitrate Security Program Rule Reduce Burdens on Small Business

December 2nd, 2011 · Comments Off

On December 1, 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy (Advocacy) submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on DHS’ Proposed Ammonium Nitrate Security Program Rule. [76 Fed. Reg. 46908 (August 3, 2011)].  DHS’ proposed rule would regulate the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate pursuant to section 563 of the Fiscal Year 2008 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which seeks to prevent the use of ammonium nitrate in an act of terrorism.  Ammonium nitrate is a chemical used primarily in fertilizers and explosives, but can also be mixed with fuel oil to create a bomb like that used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.  DHS’s proposed rule would establish a program to register and vet ammonium nitrate sellers and purchasers, verify and approve transfers of ammonium nitrate, require reporting of theft or loss, and provide for inspections/audits, civil penalties, and adjudications and appeals.  

Following publication of DHS’ proposed rule, a number of small business representatives contacted Advocacy and expressed concerns with various aspects of the proposed rule.  In response, Advocacy hosted a small business roundtable on November 22, 2011 to discuss the proposed rule and to obtain small business input on it.  Representatives from DHS attended the meeting and provided a background briefing on the proposed rule. 

  • Small business representatives at the meeting included a number of industries involved with ammonium nitrate, including agriculture, transportation, mining, and explosives.  While the attendees were supportive of the need for an ammonium nitrate security program, many expressed concern about various aspects of the proposed rule.
     
  • Small business representatives indicated that they would like DHS to better align the proposed rule with existing security programs under DHS, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
     
  • Small business representatives also expressed concern that the proposed rule would be unduly burdensome and complex, and could inhibit the transport of ammonium nitrate for legitimate purposes.  The attendees were also concerned that the proposed rule would result in redundant background checks and overlapping security programs.
     
  • Advocacy’s comments recommend that DHS reassess the impact of the proposed rule on small entities and consider alternative approaches that would meet DHS’ regulatory objectives in a less burdensome manner.

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Before Launching, Organize Personal Finances

December 1st, 2011 · Comments Off

Before Launching, Organize Personal Finances 

Aspiring entrepreneurs preparing to start businesses will find that savings, credit access, and credit scores matter more than market research and investor presentations

By Monica Mehta

(Corrects the name of the credit report website in the penultimate paragraph.)

What happens when your paychecks stop and your business isn’t bringing in steady cash flow or locking in meaningful investment? You live on personal savings. To give your venture the best shot, prepare for that reality before you quit your day job. You can get started with this checklist.

1. First determine how much you will need to cover personal expenses while launching your startup. Mint.com has a good monthly budget calculator. Budget for 18 to 24 months without a salary, to be safe. That length could vary, depending on how quickly you earn a profit or get a round of financing.

It took Sally Jones and Jill Friedman 18 months to raise $425,000 from friends, family, and angel investors for their first venture, Giddy, a manufacturer of kids’ snacks in San Francisco. They each invested $10,000 and dipped into personal savings to cover living expenses before getting that first round last November. “However long you think it will be before you can start drawing a salary, double [the amount of time], and then add some more,” says Jones.

2. Be sure to include your business partners in the conversation. Discuss not only the amount of capital they are planning to invest in the startup, but also how long they can go without drawing a salary. Their financial well being is as relevant as your own.

3. To make sure you can last until cash starts coming in, get lean. Start by making a list of expenses for the past three months; most credit cards offer detailed payment activity that can be downloaded to Excel or QuickBooks. Scrutinize expenses one by one, identifying those you can do without. Jones renegotiated her rent, cut back on restaurant dinners and beauty treatments, and canceled her gym membership. She also deferred her student loans.

4. Know that student loans can be deferred for up to two years by filing for a temporary economic-hardship dispensation. You must not be making any money to qualify; start-up life certainly fits that description. To get deferment forms, reach out to your loan servicer. To find out which one you’re using, visit the National Student Loan Data System. Budget six months to research your options and get the ball rolling.

5. Take on part-time consulting gigs. Employers are increasingly relying on consultants to fill gaps without incurring fixed overhead costs. Search sites such as oDesk and Elance for opportunities. Also make your availability known to previous employers and co-workers.

6. Make big purchases now, while you can. “The lending landscape in recent years has become incredibly tight,” says Santa Fe (N.M.)-based personal finance expert Manisha Thakor. “In the absence of steady income, your ability to attain a home mortgage or car loan will not only deteriorate, but potentially stop altogether.”

7. Consider increasing your credit limit on existing cards and applying for new ones. Your reliance on credit will increase dramatically in your company’s early days. Young businesses get about three-quarters of their funds from banks via loans, credit cards, and lines of credit, according to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. Seek adjustments while issuers still think you are a worthy risk.

8. Strengthen your credit score while you are still employed. “Your credit score is like a hot dog,” says Thakor. “No one entirely knows what goes into it.” While the exact formula remains a mystery, four moves taken at least six months in advance of quitting your job can help boost it.

First, pay bills on time. Even being one or two days late can reduce your score and it can take months to bounce back; Thakor suggests you set up as many online automatic bill payments as you can. Next, make sure your ratio of revolving usage to available credit remains below 30 percent. The best way to lower utilization is to increase availability of credit. That’s why I suggested above that you increase the amount of credit you have access to. The trick is to refrain from using it now.

In addition, keep your oldest credit cards intact; the length of your credit history plays an important role in the way your overall score is calculated. Finally, clean up any errors on your credit report by pulling a free copy from annualcreditreport.com. A study released in May 2011 by the Policy and Economic Research Council found potential errors in nearly 20 percent of reports examined.

9. Once you launch your business, keep spending on track in the early days by setting up a weekly cash burn analysis, to track budgeted vs. actual costs for major expenses. By catching unexpected increases quickly, you can make counterbalancing cuts to preserve your capital.

Monica Mehta is managing principal of investment firm Seventh Capital in New York City. She has advised hundreds of small businesses over the past 15 years. Follow her on Twitter @monicamehtanyc or read more of her writing at monicamehta.com

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