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Fostering America’s Small Employers

SBA.gov op-ed logoThe economy added 211,000 jobs in November, 2015, marking the strongest three years of job creation since 2000 with 8.1 million jobs added. Our businesses have now added 13.7 million jobs over 69 straight months, extending the longest streak on record.

These records are possible thanks to America’s small businesses. Small businesses create nearly two out of three net, new jobs and account for almost half of America’s private nonfarm GDP. Besides being the force behind our economy, they are the unique fabric of our communities.

Recently, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation published a Main Street Entrepreneurship Index. It compares entrepreneurship rates among different demographic groups in all 50 states and America’s 40 largest metro hubs. If we want Main Street small businesses to flourish, we need to know where they stand. The Kauffman Index allows us to see which cities and states have fostered the right conditions for growth.

According to the Kauffman Index, small business activity is on the rise in 49 of the 50 U.S. states and 38 of the top 40 largest metropolitan areas this year. Efforts like the Kauffman Index provide a roadmap for state and local officials seeking to foster a climate for small business growth. I find this information extremely useful for our Southeastern small business communities.

Other valuable takeaways in the report:

  • In 2015, the index experienced the second-largest year-over-year growth in more than two decades;
  • Businesses owned by women, minorities, and immigrants are increasing;
  • The number of small business owners with college degrees is increasing, from 34% in 1997 to 39% today;
  • Despite the dynamic leadership potential of our Millennials and veterans, young entrepreneurs (ages 20-34) and veteran-owned firms are actually declining.

Several specific SBA initiatives target areas of concern identified by the Kauffman Index. SBA launched the My Brother’s Keeper Millennials Initiative to promote youth entrepreneurship in the nation’s underserved communities. We are partnering with community colleges to expose young people to innovative pathways to start a business, and we’re promoting a Business Smart toolkit to train nonprofits and faith-based organizations to teach financial literacy.

SBA’s Boots to Business initiative gives post-9/11 transitioning service members a tutorial on the basics of business ownership. The program is now active at more than 180 military installations worldwide and has introduced 32,000 service members and spouses to potential careers in entrepreneurship as they rejoin the civilian workforce. We also launched Boots to Business: Reboot to open up this innovative curriculum to veterans of every era.

SBA is partnering with cities on Startup in a Day to create an easy-to-use online tool that allows entrepreneurs to apply for all licenses and permits needed to start a business in less than a day.

Working with our resource partners in communities across this nation, SBA manages the world’s largest network of free small business advisers. We’ve also eliminated borrower and bank fees on small-dollar loans, so more Main Street entrepreneurs can get the working capital they need to hire and grow. Last year, SBA achieved record lending of $23.5 billion under our flagship 7(a) loan program, with loans up 18% for women, 23% for minorities, and 101% for veterans.

The North Florida District experienced an almost 40% increase in the number of loans 7(a) loans in FY2014 from 627 loans worth $344 million to 877 loans worth $420 million FY2015. The district increased lending for Veterans from FY2014 to FY2015 by 122%, from $16 million to $37 million. The increase is attributed to the Veterans Advantage Initiative, which reduced all upfront fees to zero for veterans on loans up to $350,000 in FY2015. The initiative will continue in FY2016 for loans under $150,000 and will be reduced by 50% for loans greater than that.

Helping more Americans start and grow Main Street businesses is a core mission of the SBA. We hope you reach out to jumpstart and scale up your small business. Check out sba.gov/local for your nearest SBA local office.

By Cassius F. Butts, Regional Administrator

U.S. Small Business Administration

 

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