From the January 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

Securing a government contract just got a little easier, thanks to a new program created by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Pro-Net is an Internet-based program that allows small-business owners to register as contractors from their offices. In addition to being listed on Pro-Net, firms can link their home pages to their profiles, enabling searchers to take a more detailed look at their company's capabilities.

The database is accessible to federal, state and local government agencies as well as to larger corporations seeking subcontractors and smaller firms searching for teaming partners. Pro-Net is also linked to the Commerce Business Daily, home pages of various government agencies and other procurement opportunity sites.

To be eligible, companies must be considered small by the Standard Industrial Code (SIC) specifications. Once your registration is approved by the SBA, you can update your profile as often as necessary. To access the site, visit http://pro-net.sba.gov

Government Unveils Online Bookstore.

The U.S. Department of Commerce is now selling books online via its International Trade Center Bookstore.

The publications available include titles from government agencies such as the Bureau of Export Administration, the International Trade Administration, and the Office of U.S. Trade and Development. Nonprofit organizations such as The Brookings Institution, the United Nations and the World Bank also sell their products through the store.

Among the government publications available are the Basic Guide to Exporting, Canadian Business Directories, Statistical Abstract of the United States and U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook '98, which provides business forecasts for 350 industries.

In addition to the publications, the site features the World News Connection, an online news service; English-language foreign newspapers, magazines and journals; and translated non-English-language publications. The Department of Commerce is also developing a list of internationally accepted design, manufacturing and engineering industry standards documents. Visit the site at http://tradecenter.ntis.gov

Texas

Longhorn State Offers Employee Training Grants.

Small-business owners who need to train or retrain employees can apply for up to $1.5 million per year in training grants from the Smart Jobs Fund operated by the Texas Department of Economic Development.

The grants underwrite education ranging from classroom instruction to on-the-job training. They are available to firms that have been in operation for at least one year, have at least one employee, are financially sound and are current on their state tax obligations. The program is open to all types of companies, but it especially targets firms that are small, minority-owned, located in adversely affected defense-dependent communities or which operate in an enterprise zone.

To apply, you must submit a business plan that details the training you need and how it will enhance your firm's competitiveness. Unless you obtain an exemption, training must be accompanied by a salary increase.

Funding decisions are made within 30 working days of receiving complete applications. For more information on the Smart Jobs Fund, call (512) 936-0500.

California

Exporting Simplified By New Program.

Companies that want to go global but don't have the funds for international travel can get help from a new program operated by the California Trade and Commerce Agency.

Ready to Export prepares small exporting businesses to successfully market their products at national trade shows that are attended by foreign buyers. The shows encompass the information technology, telecommunications and electronics industries. Each will also have a large contingent of California exhibitors.

Firms receive 12 one-hour counseling sessions that cover finding interpreters, understanding export procedures and terminology, and more.

The cost for all these services is $50. Sign up by calling (562) 590-5965.