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SBA serves underserved communities

Published 12:01am Thursday, April 4, 2013

By Natalia Olson-Urtecho

At the U.S. Small Business Administration, we recognize that many Americans continue to struggle to fulfill their American dreams, especially in underserved communities where times are tough, jobs are few, and many small businesses struggle.

That is why we remain committed to helping these small businesses, especially here in Virginia, so they can grow and create jobs in our community.

Many underserved communities — which can include inner cities and rural areas and may include populations such as women, minorities, veterans, tribal groups and others — were disproportionately affected by this recession. But the fact remains that minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses are some of the fastest-growing segments of the economy.

Together with our resource partners, SBA is engaged at every level to help to small businesses reach their full potential. Whether your small business needs a loan, you need advice on how to start or grow your business, or you’re interested in getting your business into government contracting, SBA is here to help with loan programs, free counseling and government contracting help.

Loan programs

Across the country and particularly in underserved communities, small business owners are often faced with the challenge of accessing capital — getting the loans needed to start and grow their businesses.

Through a variety of loan programs, SBA can help you take this important step by facilitating a loan with a third-party lender, guaranteeing a bond or helping businesses find venture capital.

One option may be SBA’s Small Loan Advantage Program. SLA 2.0 offers lenders the opportunity to invest in neighborhoods hit hardest by the recession, streamlining the process to get more loans into the hands of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

SLA 2.0 also makes it easier to process low-dollar loans by expanding the pool of lenders to include entities outside the SBA Preferred Lender Program.

The loan limit for the program is $350,000, and banks may use their own documentation and underwriting process. For more information and a complete listing of SBA’s loan products, visit http://www.sba.gov/content/sba-loans.

Free counseling

Starting a business can be daunting, but SBA is uniquely positioned to help you find ways to start and grow your business and to connect you with the local assistance you need to do that. SBA and its resource partners (including Small Business Development Centers, Women Business Centers, SCORE and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers) are committed to assisting small business owners with the diverse challenges they face at every stage of development.

Don’t know where to start? Visit www.sba/direct or contact your local SBA Richmond District Office at 804-771-2400 to learn what programs might be right for you.

Government contracting

Small businesses have access to nearly $100 billion worth of government contracts a year. In addition to connecting small businesses with capital, SBA can help you compete for set-aside contracts in the federal marketplace through programs such as the Women-Owned Business Certification Program, HUBZone Certification Program and the 8(a) Business Development Program.

In particular, the 8(a) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs to help them gain a foothold in government contracting.  The program does not obtain contracts for small businesses, but instead helps a business position itself to compete successfully in the federal marketplace.

Another option is SBA’s network of Community Advantage lenders. These non-profit, mission-based lenders can originate loans up $250,000 with a guarantee. The SBA is working with these alternative lenders that have a reach into underserved communities to expand access to capital.

Interested in learning more about how SBA can help your business? Staying connected is a key to success. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook or explore what SBA has to offer at www.sba.gov.

Natalia Olson-Urtecho is the regional administrator for the United States Small Business Administration.

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