A trio of bills recently introduced in the Senate would aim to enhance small business participation in international trade and increase the sector's access to working capital.
The Small Business Trade Representation Act (S. 2861) would permanently establish an assistant U.S. trade representative for small businesses, in order to give the sector a more pronounced voice in trade policy considerations, and the Small Business Export Enhancement and International Trade Act (S. 2862) would establish an associate administrator at the Small Business Administration (SBA) for international trade, increase the number of SBA export finance specialists and raise the maximum amount of an international trade loan or export working capital program loan from $2 million to $5 million.
On the domestic side, the Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act of 2009 (S. 2869) would increase the small business loan limit to as high as $5.5 million and extend the fee eliminations and increased guarantee set to expire under the Recovery Act for another year.
All three bills were jointly introduced by Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship leaders Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
"Our nation's small businesses have created 64% of all new jobs in the last fifteen years, yet in the last year nearly 85% of the jobs lost have come from small businesses. Now that we have stabilized Wall Street, it is time to jump-start Main Street, and that begins with implementing the vital provisions within this bill," said Landrieu, referring to the Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act. "The loan limit increase could boost SBA lending by $5 billion next year alone, while the refinancing component of the bill could help save 60,000 jobs. To ensure small businesses are able to grow and continue being the job creators they have historically been, we must make these needed changes." The refinancing component mentioned by Landrieu is a provision in the bill that would allow businesses to refinance short-term commercial real estate debt into long-term fixed rate loans through the SBA's 504 loan program, its second most-popular, behind the 7(a) program.
As exports and international trade have been a fairly consistent bright spot in an otherwise grim economy, Landrieu and Snowe have been eager to get smaller firms involved in the global market, and aim to do so with both the trade representation and export enhancement acts. "Small businesses face particular challenges in exporting, and the bills that Chair Landrieu and I have introduced will take great strides toward ensuring their greater participation in international trade," said Snowe. "By improving and bolstering critical Small Business Administration (SBA) lending and assistance programs, we will be giving our nation's entrepreneurs a helping hand in surviving, diversifying and competing effectively in the international marketplace.
The more domestically-oriented of the three bills, S. 2869, has already garnered a uniformly-democratic group of 12 cosponsors in addition to Landrieu and Snowe.
Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer