MIAMI - The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Florida Export Finance Corporation (FFEC) signed a statewide strategic alliance memorandum today at the SBA South Florida district offices committing to a partnership to help demystify international trade for Florida’s small business owners.
“I’m delighted that we are doing this—bringing together the experts to raise the awareness of the value of exports to small business owners and help demystify the complexities and risk of international trade,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero.
FFEC President J. Stephen Fancher agreed many small business owners haven’t considered expanding their customer base with international customers because of the perception that it’s too risky or complicated.
“We’ve been trying for 21 years to get the message out. We can help small business owners of any size understand the risk and help mitigate that risk,” said Fancher.
The strategic alliance signed today formalized a long-standing working relationship between SBA and FFEC who tended to show up at the same workshops and conferences across the state to raise awareness of expanding small business exports.
“I often see SBA at the same events I speak at,” said Fancher. “But given the size of my office and time constraints, we can’t reach every group who wants to learn more. This partnership will help us commit to more events and speak on the same level.”
According to Fancher, the strategic alliance is important to leverage the strengths and differences of the two organizations. One of the major differences between FFEC and the SBA is their ability to provide capital to small businesses that want to expand through exports but for whatever reason, don’t qualify for SBA international loan guarantees.
“SBA programs are designed to fit a national program and have different requirements. FFEC has rules to fit Florida businesses. We can work more with microbusinesses with less collateral, time in business and accounting processes than SBA or Export-Import Bank (EXIM). We’re not in competition with them because we work with those who don’t qualify for those agencies’ programs. We are all working together to increase small business exports,” said Fancher.
SBA international loan programs in the South Florida District, which covers the 24 counties south of Orlando, are showing an increase over the previous year. In FY 12 through June 30, 2012, the district approved 55 loans totaling more than $35.1 million. North Florida District, comprising counties north of Orlando, tallied 10 loans for more than $4.9 million. In FY 13 through June 30, 2013, the South Florida district approved 65 loans totaling more than $62.7 million. In the SBA’s North Florida District, eight loans totalling more than $5.6 million have been approved.
“This is the heart of Florida exports,” said Fancher referring to Miami and south Florida.
But small business interest in SBA’s North Florida district is also strong said SBA South Florida District Director Wilfredo Gonzalez.
“Everybody seems to be involved with Jacksonville’s dredging project as the city is geared up for the Panama Canal expansion project,” said Gonzalez. “The beauty of Jacksonville is the total logistics available for international trade when you consider the port, highways and railroad lines. The regional chamber of commerce and our international chambers have a strong interest in learning more about exports. There will be more business opportunities for Florida small businesses and this alliance will help in our efforts,” said Gonzalez.
More information on SBA Export Assistance can be found online at: http://www.sba.gov/content/explore-exporting
More information on Florida Export Finance Corporation can be found online at: http://www.dos.state.fl.us/fefc/