Looking toward 2012, it is likely that the divisive discussion brought on by a national presidential election campaign will make its way into Connecticut. We don’t look forward to it.
The glimpse into that future that President Obama provided us in his December 6 address should be alert for all in the business community regardless of what political party they support.
This page does not often wade into the national dialogue just as we don’t help our readers choose their political leaders. What concerns us, however, is that inevitably the national election will effect the dialogue and outcomes in Connecticut in a very unfortunate way.
Connecticut, frankly, is a state populated largely by “haves.” Times are tough in Connecticut now, as elsewhere, and the appeal of “us vs. them” and an entitlement mentality are taking hold — often among people who should know better based on their relative economic status.
The so called “Occupy” is a simple example, but more importantly we have seen it in the rhetoric of those who claim to be in the mainstream of Connecticut politics as well. A march on the home of General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (ironically a supporter of the President) drew no rebukes from Connecticut’s elected officials.
We are not encouraged by the President seeking reelection by harkening back to the heated rhetoric of a 100-plus-year-old political movement. We’re equally unimpressed by those in the “tea party” who insist that the last great ideas in this country came from our founders two-plus centuries ago.
Our problems in Connecticut are certainly not greed. Significant private giving is a way of life in this state, especially here in greater New Haven.
What we do suffer from us is an inability to craft solutions based on our existing resources and with an outlook for the beginning of the 21st century.
We need an energy policy that is realistic and readily achievable.
We need a true commitment to education reform across Connecticut not just for a select few communities.
We need a commitment to a diverse economy that goes beyond lip service to small business.
We need dialogue from our elected representatives that does not seek to help workers but forgets that employment starts with employers and their ability to generate profits.
New Haven has indeed made progress in the past ten years. That that progress is fragile is evidenced by a six-fold increase in homicides over five years. It’s a problem that won’t be solved by heated rhetoric or street demonstrations but, as New Haven Mayor John DeStefano points out in this month’s ON THE RECORD interview, by a renewed commitment to policing and community engagement.
As some Republican and Democratic leaders point out in our cover story, Connecticut needs to honestly face its financial challenges. It won’t be possible to do that in an environment of blaming successful people for what they have earned.
We urge our readers to insist that Connecticut’s political leaders of both parties don’t try to drag us into a destructive analysis of our problems to help their party win an election.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to providing access and opportunity to Americans who are, or who want to become, small-business owners. For a variety of reasons, some communities are underserved when it comes to getting the tools they need to grow a business and create jobs. This includes minorities, women, veterans, those in rural and urban areas and others.
With 68 district offices located across America, the SBA and its many resource partners are committed to providing services to small businesses that need help. We have a vast network with proven experience, especially in areas with limited access to financial and technical assistance.
Importantly, many of our staff around the country are familiar with their unique small-business communities and how to meet their needs. In fact, many of our district offices and resource partners have bilingual or multilingual staff. Check out your own local resources at sba.gov/direct simply by typing in your ZIP code.
Our resource partners include about 800 Small Business Development Centers, including the Connecticut Small Business Development Centers, which provide training and business counseling for little or no cost. This includes the basics of starting a business and understanding more about topics like finances, marketing, production and management. Visit ctsbdc.org for a location near you.
We also have 110 Women’s Business Centers, including the Connecticut Women’s Business Center in Hartford, Naugatuck Valley and Stamford (wbcct.org), as well as 350 chapters of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), our mentoring program that matches experienced entrepreneurs with up-and-comers. There are SCORE chapters throughout Connecticut. Visit score.org to locate the chapter nearest you.
Providing adequate services to underserved small businesses requires a crosscutting strategy that touches upon many policy and program areas.
In addition to these counseling efforts, access to capital is top on SBA’s agenda. Small firms require financing to grow, to hire new employees and invest in the future.
Already, SBA loans are much more likely than traditional small business loans to go to women and minorities. But unfortunately there are still gaps in the marketplace.
For example, studies show that low-dollar small-business loans are particularly important for economic development in underserved communities. But while overall small-business lending has started to come back after the recession, we still see a gap in this area.
That’s why we are piloting the Community Advantage program. For the first time, we opened up SBA’s most popular loan program to community-based, mission-focused lenders who have a high-touch approach. This includes Community Development Financial Institutions, SBA’s Certified Development Companies, microlenders and others who keep at least 60 percent of their portfolios in underserved markets.
Community Advantage will let these organizations make 7(a) loans of $250,000 or less, and they can use streamlined paperwork to get the deal done.
Beyond these capital- and counseling-focused programs, we also help small businesses get linked up with the world’s largest customer: the U.S. government. Working closely with other federal agencies, we help set aside nearly one-fourth of all federal contracts for small businesses, totaling nearly $100 billion annually.
This includes specific efforts targeted at service-disabled veteran-owned business, firms in historically underutilized business areas (HUBZone) , minority and disadvantaged firms (8[a]), and — new for 2011 — women-owned companies.
Overall, to further drive targeted strategies for underserved communities throughout the SBA, we recently convened the first meeting of our Council on Underserved Communities. They are providing input, advice and recommendations on how we can do even more to reach out.
Beyond the SBA’s day-to-day efforts, helping small businesses grow and hire is at the core of the President’s new Jobs Act initiatives. If enacted, it would:
• Cut in half the payroll taxes for small businesses for the first $5 million in wages, helping all small businesses, including those in underserved areas;
• Temporarily eliminate employer payroll taxes for small businesses that create jobs or give raises for existing workers above the prior year;
• Extend an immediate 100-percent expensing write-off into 2012 to encourage even more companies to invest in more machinery and equipment
• Provide large (up to $4,000) tax credits for businesses that hire workers who’ve been unemployed for six months, with even bigger credits for hiring veterans;
• Make powerful investments in schools, roads, rail and airports while helping small business contractors compete for these infrastructure contracts and get surety bonds up to $5 million; and,
• Make it easier for states to allow unemployed workers to create their own jobs by starting their own businesses.
We need these incentives for small business right now. These are bipartisan ideas that can help the diverse array of small businesses here in Connecticut.
We will continue to find new ways, both at SBA and throughout the administration, to put more tools in the hands of our job creators, including those in underserved communities.
Jeanne A. Hulit is New England Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.