By: Cassius Butts, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
Each January we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Each February we celebrate the important milestones highlighted by Black History Month—reaffirming our commitment to helping individuals across this 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 many small businesses struggle. That is why we remain committed to lifting–up these small businesses, especially in SBA’s South Florida District, so they can grow and create jobs in our community.
Although many underserved communities—which can include inner cities and rural areas and may include populations such as women, minorities, veterans, tribal groups and others—were disproportionately affected by this recession, the fact remains that Minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses are some of the fastest growing segments of the economy.
Together with our resource partners, SBA is engaged at every level to help to all small businesses reach their full potential.
Loan Programs. Across the country, and particularly in underserved communities, small business owners are often faced with the challenge of accessing the capital they need to start and grow their business. Through a variety of loan programs, SBA can help you take this important step by facilitating a loan with a third party lender, guaranteeing a bond, or helping businesses find venture capital.
One option may be SBA’s Small Loan Advantage (SLA) Program, “SLA 2.0,” which offers lenders the opportunity to invest in neighborhoods hit hardest by the recession; streamlining the process to get more loans into the hands of small businesses and entrepreneurs. SLA 2.0 also makes it easier to process low dollar 7(a) loans by expanding the pool of lenders to include entities outside the SBA Preferred Lender Program. The loan limit for the program is $350,000 and banks may use their own documentation and underwriting process. The loan program is working in South Florida. In FY12, SBA approved 14 loans for a total of nearly $1.1 milion. In the first quarter of FY13, the South Florida District approved 18 loans for a total of more than $2.5 million. The average loan size has increased from $76,157 to $140,528. For more information and a complete listing of SBA’s loan products, visit www.sba.gov/content/sba-loans.
Free Counseling. Starting a business can be daunting, but SBA is uniquely positioned to help you find ways to start and grow your business, and to connect you with the local assistance you need to do just that. The SBA and our resource partners (which include Small Business Development Centers, Women Business Centers, SCORE, and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers) are committed to assisting small business owners with the diverse challenges they face at every stage of development. Don’t know where to start? Visit www.sba/direct or contact SBA South Florida District Office to learn what programs might be right for you.
Government Contracting. Small businesses have access to nearly $100 billion worth of government contracts a year. In addition to connecting small businesses with capital, SBA can help you compete for set-aside contracts in the federal marketplace through programs such as the Women Owned Business Certification Program, HUBZone Certification Program, and the 8(a) Business Development Program.
In particular, the 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain a foothold in government contracting. The program does not obtain contracts for small businesses, but instead helps a business position itself to compete successfully in the federal marketplace. Participation in the program is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
Interested in learning more about how SBA can help your business? Staying connected is a key to success. Follow us on Twitter @SBASoutheast or Facebook SBA Southeast, and explore what SBA has to offer at the South Florida District website www.sba.gov/southflorida.
A photo of Cassius Butts is attached to accompany this article.