By Patricia Brown-Dixon / Guest Editorial
Each January, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Each February, we celebrate important milestones throughout Black History Month. These and other celebrations reaffirm our commitment to helping all individuals across our nation achieve the promise of the American dream.
At the U.S. Small Business Administration, we recognize that many Americans today continue to struggle to fulfill this American dream, especially in underserved communities, where times are tough, jobs are few, and where many small businesses struggle. That is why we remain committed to providing assistance to these small businesses, especially in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, to help them grow and create jobs in our communities.
Underserved communities are federally defined and can include inner cities and rural areas as well as women, minorities, veterans, tribal groups and others. Statistics show these areas and populations were disproportionately affected by the 2008 recession, but the facts also show that minority-owned and women-owned businesses are among the fastest growing segments of the economy.
Together with our funded resource partners and lending partners, the SBA is engaged at every level to help all small businesses reach their full potential.
Loan programs. Across the country, and particularly in underserved communities, small business owners are often challenged in accessing the capital they need to start and grow their businesses. The SBA helps by offering third party lenders a federal guarantee on the loans they make, guaranteeing a company’s bid or performance bond, or helping businesses find venture capital investors. The SBA offers loan programs from $50,000 or less (micro-loans) up to $5 million by providing guarantees and capitalization from micro-loans to high-dollar export and fixed asset loans.
Free counseling and low-cost training. Starting a business can be daunting, but the SBA is uniquely positioned to connect you with local assistance. The SBA and our SBA-funded resource partners (Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, SCORE organizations and Veteran’s Business Centers) are committed to assisting small business owners with the diverse challenges they face at every stage of development. Visit www.sba/direct to contact people who can tell you what programs might be right for you.
Government contracting. Small businesses have access to nearly $100 billion worth of government contracts each year. In addition to connecting small businesses with capital and counseling, the SBA helps small companies compete for set-aside contracts in the federal marketplace through its Women Owned Small Business Program, HUBZone Certification Program, and the 8(a) Business Development Program.
In particular, the 8(a) Program offers assistance to help socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs learn government contracting rules. The program does not obtain contracts for the small businesses but it does help businesses position themselves to successfully compete for them.
For more information, follow us on Twitter @SBAGreatPlains or Facebook at SBA Great Plains, or www.sba.gov.
Patricia Brown-Dixon is Region VII Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.