Push For Small Business

By Libby Casey

The White House is pushing hard for a small business stimulus bill.  It would establish a $30-Billion lending fund for community and smaller banks that lend to local businesses.  It would also give 12-billion dollars in tax breaks.

Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich tried to drum up support for it on the Senate floor last week:

You know this bill is about $12-Billion that the small business community will not have to pay to IRS.  It will save them money, it will get the IRS out of their pockets.  This is good for small business.

Begich says as a small business owner he has an appreciation of what the assistance will mean to Alaska’s companies and small banks.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says she likes the core of the bill, but not the add-ons included by the Democrats, like the $30-Billion lending pot.  She says it lacks oversight and accountability.

Certainly what was negotiated and worked out in committee I think is good.  It’s what we see when these bills move from committee and then you have kind of this restructuring that goes on prior to it coming to the floor.  The leader’s office cobbles together some initiatives, and the guts of a good bill have been left by the wayside.

State officials are waiting to see whether the bill will get passed this week before the Senate adjourns.  John Katz, director of the Governor’s Washington office, says Sean Parnell supports small business, but is waiting to see how things fall into place.

We have not become involved in the partisan maneuvering in the Senate over the small business legislation.  There’s nothing constructive we can contribute to that dynamic since it’s so partisan in nature.

The head of the Small Business Administration, Karen Mills, says the bill will fund programs already in place that funnel money to small businesses throughout the country – including Alaska.  Mills was in the state last month (July) and visisted small business development centers.

We were talking to our small business development centers that go actually all around the state to many rural areas, and bring in a team, and they actually teach a course called “profit mastery,” which helps small businesses understand where they’re making their money.  And how they are going to run their business so they can become more profitable, so they can hire more people and grow Alaska’s a state of entrepreneurs.

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While Mills was in Alaska, she spoke at an Anchorage conference on 8-A government contracting.  The program gives special opportunities to Alaska Native Corporations so they can secure government contracts.  It’s come under scrutiny because the corporations can get no-bid federal contracts of any size.

Critics say the Native Corporations are getting too much of a leg-up, and are strong enough now that they don’t need it.  The program is currently undergoing a rewrite, and may change so that the companies have to report back on how their shareholders are benefited by the contracts.

Mills says while they’re tightening oversight of the program, she defends it and says it does serve a valuable purpose.

One of the things we’re asking Alaska native corporations to do is to do a transparent reporting of the benefits that are delivered.  And we had the opportunity to visit Afognak cultural camp for instance on Kodiak Island.  And see first-hand benefits that come back to the communities, from the work in the Native Corporations.  And I think those benefits are understood, quantified, they are pretty impressive.

The S-B-A’s rewrite of the 8-A program is now in review within the agency.


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