Saturday, May 21, 2011 | 2:01 a.m.
As National Small Business Week ends, it is appropriate to remind Americans that the nation’s recovery from a battered economy will not be possible without strategies to help small businesses survive and expand. As domestic priorities go, none is more pressing than the need to create jobs, and small businesses have created 64 percent of the country’s new private-sector positions over the past 15 years.
It would be terrific if Wall Street lenders shed their stubborn ways by making it easier for Main Street entrepreneurs to borrow money to remain solvent, upgrade equipment and increase their workforces.
This failure to loosen credit remains a major roadblock to the nation’s economic recovery and a key reason why Nevada continues to struggle with double-digit unemployment.
But President Barack Obama and his administration have an aggressive agenda that demonstrates what government can do to promote a healthier environment for small businesses. The White House says that from February 2009 through last year, the Small Business Administration helped provide 564 loans in Nevada, supporting more than $280 million in lending.
A report issued Monday by the president’s National Economic Council highlighted the administration’s accomplishments in assisting small businesses, including expanded tax breaks, improved access to capital, increased U.S. exports, and greater federal contracting opportunities. As Obama aptly said: “To ensure the stability of our recovery, we must continue to provide new opportunities for small-business owners and the next generation of entrepreneurs, who will help us out-innovate our global competitors to win the future.”
Congress should do whatever possible to help achieve that goal. But obstructionist tactics by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine have threatened to derail two federal programs designed to give small businesses the opportunity to participate in government research and technology initiatives. Both the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technical Transfer programs, which are set to expire May 31 unless reauthorized, have served the nation well. Renewal of both programs cleared a Senate committee by a near unanimous vote, but a motion by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this month to end floor debate failed to get the necessary 60 votes after Snowe insisted on attaching an amendment that the Nevada Democrat said was not relevant to the proposed legislation.
The big losers are small businesses, because these programs have proved track records of success. As Reid said: “They have helped get great new ideas off the ground, everything from the electric toothbrush to satellite antennae that helped first responders in Haiti, to technologies that keep our food safe and our military’s tanks from overheating in the desert. There are success stories in every state and nearly every industry.”
The 150,000-member National Small Business Association, the nation’s oldest small-business advocacy group, said that although it supports Snowe’s effort to reduce small business regulations, she should withdraw her amendment. Association President Todd McCracken said the Small Business Innovation Research program is “too critical to small-business innovation for it to be the target of political gamesmanship.”
We could not have said it better.