Is SBA S.O.L.?

Down but Not Out

It's tempting to throw in the towel and concede that the SBA has outlived its usefulness.

Tempting-but wrong.

The plain fact is there are several compelling reasons to renovate, not junk, the SBA. A high-profile federal government agency provides a solid, steady focal point for small-business issues in a way that disparate nonprofit groups can't. Only a federal agency has the power to create important nationwide programs that can benefit all entrepreneurs, such as channels to enable small businesses to bid on government contracts. The SBA also serves as a valuable advocate for small businesses within the federal government, as it presents issues entrepreneurs care about to Congress, the executive branch and the policy-makers within other agencies.

"We've got to figure out a way to make the SBA more effective," says Scott Hauge, an independent San Francisco insurance agent who has been involved with the SBA at local and national levels. "A lot of small-business people value the advocacy role. You have at least one friend in Washington."

Even critics who would like to see the SBA scaled down and folded into the Department of Commerce concede that the core concept of having a federal office that is the fulcrum for information, advocacy and key programs for small businesses shouldn't be eliminated. The sticking point is determining which information, advocacy efforts and programs really are key to the SBA's reason for being.

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This article was originally published in the October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Is SBA S.O.L.?.

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