As we go into the new year, it’s a perfect time to dream about the future and set new goals and resolutions. If your plans include starting a new business, the best place to start is with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
The SBA has an office in every state, and we have lenders, counselors, and other partners who work in thousands of communities across the U.S. With their help, we have been knocking down obstacles for entrepreneurs and small business owners for nearly 60 years.
In fact, for the fiscal year that just ended, the SBA helped provide nearly 8,500 loans to small businesses in the Southeast Region. And in Georgia and nationwide, the agency had its biggest year ever. For the first time, SBA lending in Georgia went over the $1 billion mark in FY 2011.
Generally, we can help in two big ways.
First, if you’re someone who has a few ideas down on paper and you need someone who can help you formulate a business plan, the SBA or one of our “resource partners” is a great place to start. You can find local help by going to www.sba.gov/direct and typing in your zip code. The SBA Georgia District Office lists its local resources along with a monthly training calendar at www.sba.gov/ga.
In addition, you can often find our Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) at local colleges and other locations in Georgia and other states. Also, check out www.SCORE.org, a volunteer organization with more than 350 chapters and more than 10,000 mentors, many of whom have been successful executives themselves.
The agency’s main website, at www.sba.gov also features a “Counseling & Training” link at the top of the main page. This link will help you locate your local SCORE and SBDC offices as well as help for women and veteran-owned businesses.
The same link offers free, online business training that covers Starting a Business, Managing a Business, Financing a Business as well as six courses on contracting with the government. The Training link also offers IRS resources and tips for small business.
The best part is that these resources are mostly free to the small business owners.
The second situation where SBA and our partners can help is if you’re already a small business owner.
Many small business owners have come to us over the past two years, looking for ways to reinvent their business and grow in the face of tough economic times. Whether it’s getting an SBA loan, winning your first federal contract, or learning the ins-and-outs of exporting, the SBA and our partners can get you the information and the local connections you need.
Why is all of this so important?
Economists agree that small businesses are a big part of the solution to getting our economy moving again and to creating jobs that we lost in the recession. President Obama and Congress have used — and continue to use — the SBA and other federal agencies to help you get the tools you need to succeed.
In particular, the president is pushing for more tax relief for small businesses, especially those that are looking to buy more equipment or hire more workers. We need to make sure that small businesses have every possible incentive to help build on the growth that we’re beginning to see in the economy.
I’m particularly proud of our efforts to help veterans, thousands of whom are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re working to ensure that businesses have every incentive to hire veterans, and that veterans themselves can transform their skills and leadership into starting a new business of their own.
So, if you’re thinking about starting or growing a business in 2012, you know where to go. There’s no time like the present to have that first conversation with the SBA or one of our resource partners in your area. Have a happy new year.
Cassius Butts is the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.