PDE staff were on hand earlier this week for a roundtable held by the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Our report of the event--Entrepreneurial Development: Investing in Small Businesses to Strengthen Our Economy--follows:
In preparation for the reauthorization of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a roundtable discussion on the its entrepreneurship development programs.
The dialogue focused on several specific programs, as well as broader goals: improving Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), SCORE, Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), and the Program for Investment in Entrepreneurs (PRIME), expanding programs that support veteran and Native American entrepreneurs, and promoting international trade among small businesses.
In the reauthorization of the SBA’s entrepreneurship development programs, Committee Chair Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La) set forth a goal of making these programs more effective and efficient. Additionally, she hopes to increase the reach of these programs, to a more geographically and racially diverse group of Americans. She also called for these programs to be based in measurable outcomes.
Panelists agreed that a uniform, streamlined process is needed whereby small business owners can report their metrics. However, there was considerable disagreement about the technological resources necessary to provide this data, and privacy issues associated with such practices.
In the examination of resources available to entrepreneurs, panelists argued that more funding is essential to fostering entrepreneurial success among women, Native Americans, and veterans. At current levels, related centers for entrepreneurial support are under funded and under staffed, yet still forced to provide services to large geographic regions. In particular, as veterans return from the Middle East, there is a higher need to provide these services for veterans. The reauthorization bill submitted by Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Snowe (R-ME) (S. 1229) calls for increased appropriations in these areas.
The proposed bill also calls for funding training programs targeted at entrepreneurs and small business owners, which would offer information on things like health care options.
Additionally, this bill (along with S.1196) would provide training and incentives for small business owners to export their products overseas. Dr. James Morrision, from the Small Business Exporters Association, said this later training may offer the most efficacious use of taxpayer funds. He cited a stud indicating a 40:1 return on funds that promote exportation of American goods.
More discussions are planned by the Committee to discuss ways to improve entrepreneurship development programs in the US.
[Reported by Paige Ingram]