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Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that seeks to aid, counsel, assist, and protect the interests of small business. The SBA ensures that small business concerns receive a fair portion of federal government purchases, contracts, and subcontracts, as well as of the sales of government property. The agency is best known for its loans to small business concerns, state and local development companies, and the victims of floods or other catastrophes.
The SBA was created by the Small Business Act of 1953 (67 Stat. 232 [15 U.S.C.A. § 631 et seq.]) and derives its present authority from this act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 (15 U.S.C.A. § 661).
The SBA provides guaranteed loans to small businesses to help them finance plant construction, conversion, or expansion and acquire equipment, facilities, machinery, supplies, or materials. It also provides them with working capital. Since 1976 farms have been considered to be small business concerns.
The SBA also provides loan guarantees to finance residential or commercial construction. The administration may finance small firms that manufacture, sell, install, service, or develop specific energy measures. In an effort to reach more businesses, the SBA provides loans and grants to private, nonprofit organizations that, in turn, make small loans and provide technical assistance to small businesses.
Through its Surety Bond Guarantee Program, the SBA helps to make the contract bonding process accessible to small and emerging contractors who find bonding unavailable. A bond is posted as a guarantee that the contracted work will be performed. If the work is not performed, the money pledged in the bond will be used to cover the contractor's default. The SBA program guarantees to reimburse the issuer of the bond up to 90 percent of losses incurred under bid, payment, or performance bonds issued to small contractors on contracts valued up to $1.25 million.
The SBA lends money to help the victims of floods, riots, or other catastrophes repair or replace most disaster-damaged property. Direct loans with subsidized interest rates are made to assist individuals, homeowners, businesses, and small agricultural cooperatives without credit elsewhere that have sustained substantial economic injury resulting from natural disasters.
The administration licenses, regulates, and provides financial assistance to small business investment companies and section 301(d) licensees (formerly minority enterprise small business investment companies). The sole function of these investment companies is to provide venture capital in the form of Equity financing, long-term loan funds, and management services to small business concerns.
The SBA works closely with the purchasing agencies of the federal government and with the leading U.S. contractors in developing policies and procedures that will increase the number of contracts awarded to small businesses.
The administration has a number of services that help small firms obtain and fulfill government contracts. It sets aside suitable government purchases for competitive award to small business concerns and provides an appeal procedure for a low-bidding small firm whose ability to perform a contract is questioned by the contracting officer. The SBA maintains close ties with prime contractors and refers qualified small firms to them. In addition, it works with federal agencies in setting goals for procuring prime contracts and subcontracts for small businesses, especially those owned by women and members of disadvantaged groups.
The SBA is recognized for its longtime effort to provide education, counseling, and information to small business owners and prospective owners. It has increasingly relied on forging partnerships with nongovernmental groups to deliver business education and training programs at low cost. For example, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) provides one-on-one counseling free of charge.
The Business Information Center (BIC) program is an innovative approach to providing a one-stop location for information, education, and training. Components of BIC include the latest computer hardware and software, an extensive small business reference library, and a collection of current management videotapes.
The SBA also produces many pamphlets and publications about a variety of business and management topics. It has also established SBA Online, a toll-free electronic bulletin board for small businesses.
Minority Enterprise Development
Sections 7(j) and 8(a) of the Small Business Act provide for the Minority Enterprise Development Program, designed to promote business ownership by socially and economically disadvantaged persons. Participation is available to small businesses that are at least 51 percent unconditionally owned, controlled, and managed by one or more individuals determined by the SBA to be socially and economically disadvantaged. Program participants receive a wide variety of services, including management and technical assistance, loans, and federal contracts.
The Office of Advocacy serves as a leading advocate within public policy councils for the more than 22 million small businesses in the United States. The office, which is headed by the chief counsel for advocacy, lobbies Congress, the Executive Branch, and state agencies concerning the interests and needs of small business. The office also is a leading source of information about the state of small business and the issues that affect small business success and growth.
Women's Business Ownership
The Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO) provides assistance to the increasing number of women business owners and acts as their advocate in the public and private sector. It is the only office in the federal government specifically targeted to women business owners, assisting them through technical, financial, and management information and business training, skills counseling, and research.
The OWBO has established 54 training centers in 28 states and the District of Columbia, which provide community-based training for women at every stage of their entrepreneurial careers. In addition, the office created the Women's Network for Entrepreneurial Training, a one-year mentoring program linking experienced entrepreneurs with women whose businesses are poised for growth. This program is designed to help women avoid the common mistakes of new business owners.
Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers provide counseling and training to existing and prospective small business owners. The 950 centers operate in every state, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Each center is a partner with state government in economic development activities to support and assist small businesses.
Between 1953 and 2002 SBA programs assisted almost 20 million small businesses. Between 1991 and 2000 the SBA aided almost 435,000 small businesses in receiving more than $94.6 billion in loans. The SBA continues to increase participation by minority-owned businesses by means of its minority small business program and publication of informational materials in Spanish.
The SBA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. It maintains ten regional offices and has field offices in most major U.S. cities.
Bean, Jonathan J. 2001. Big Government and Affirmative Action: The Scandalous History of the Small Business Administration. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky.
O'Hara, Patrick D. 2002. SBA Loans: A Step-by-Step Guide. 4th ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Small Business Administration. Available online at <www.sba.gov> (accessed August 12, 2003).
U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 2003).