Last week, while many residents of the Midwest were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and many of their state politicians were practicing said assembly across state lines, Cleveland played host to the current resident of the Oval Office and a number of Cabinet members who came to address issues and concerns affecting small business owners.
The Cleveland cast included not Betty White and Valerie Bertinelli, who star in a terrific prime time comedy staged in that city, but in addition to the President, there was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, SBA Administrator Karen Mills, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Economic Council chairman Austan Goolsbee, and Steve Case, the AOL co-founder.
Obama and Co. listened to area small business owners, and attempted to address questions that had been sent via The White House Web site.
One attendee spoke about what I'll assume were many others' concerns about the difficulty of obtaining bank loans for working capital, a sort of important source I imagine of funding for small entrepreneurs.
But the squeeze over the last two years by the massive credit crunch in the banking sector has resulted in difficulty for many obtaining loans.
Obama pointed out that over the last two years, the SBA has increasing the guarantees it provides to banks if they make a loan to a small business.
"As a consequence, volume from the Small Business Administration went up substantially," he said.
Well yes and no.
Volume may have risen, but loans have not.
The SBA Office of Advocacy's latest edition of "Small Business Lending in the United States" found that small business lending dropped by 6.2 percent over 2009-2010.
And until now, I did not realize that professional service organizations often don't qualify for SBA loans, thereby rendering ineligible accountants, tax preparers, attorneys or doctors.
And as one reader pointed out, service firms proportionally pay more in taxes than those in the manufacturing and retail sector, which are often plied with attractive tax breaks.
Perhaps another reason behind the lending decline is that after two years of being assaulted by the recession, many small businesses now have tattered credit histories and, therefore, find the application process nearly impossible to navigate.
And while many small businesses have been blessed by angel investors, I would not recommend that one's start-up capital depend on a billionaire's soft spot for budding entrepreneurs.
Now should one of the 17 or so tax breaks that Obama crowed his administration was able to enact for small businesses include a provision for angel investors that would be a step in the right direction.
Historically capital tends to flow easier as recessions lift, but obviously more needs to be done in terms of access now. I'll leave that to far brighter minds than mine.
Because after all is said and done, it would be a shame for the 20 million or so small businesses not just in Cleveland, but across the country, if more was said than done.
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