The National Small Business Summit On
Economic Recovery Act
I. Description of the Bill
The nation is experiencing the greatest recession since the depression of the 1930s, and the economic impact is projected to last for years to come. Although large business problems have received the most publicity, and an unprecedented level of governmental financial assistance, small businesses are being even more severely impacted. The result is widespread business failures, bankruptcies, and job losses.
According to the latest SBA research, over 99% of all US, businesses are small businesses. They provided over 50.4% of all private sector jobs and created over 79% of net new domestic jobs. Small businesses are also a major factor in the export of traded sector goods and services, which is vital to the nation’s long-term economic future. Unlike many large businesses, most small businesses are also American owned, and their jobs and profits stay in the US to grow our economy.
Small businesses today are facing many problems in addition to the economy, including credit and capital availability, regulatory burdens, rapidly increasing health insurance and energy costs and poor workforce skill levels. Helping small businesses overcome these problems will require the interaction or assistance of many governmental agencies, and the Congress.
The first step in quickly, and cost effectively, rebuilding a sustainable small business economy, is for government agencies and policy makers to better understand the real needs and priorities of American small businesses. The second step is for government to communicate to small businesses information on assistance programs that are currently available, and to use their input to improve them, and also identify other areas where assistance is needed. This Bill establishes an infrastructure for direct two-way communication between the Federal government and small business leaders to improve the small business and entrepreneurial economy.
Section 2 – Amendments to SBA Co-sponsorship and Participant Fee Authority
Good communication between government and the private sector requires adequate funding to continuously gather information through meetings, conferences, and research projects, and later, to distribute information through electronic and printed publications. General Federal Budget appropriations for the Small Business Administration have declined over the last 8 years and will probably continue to decline because of the high budget deficit. Without program sponsors and participation fees for events, SBA may not have adequate funding for effective outreach and communication activities at the national and regional levels. Last year’s annual Small Business Week conference, for example, had 22 major corporate and organizational co-sponsors to help offset the cost.
The authority for SBA to accept sponsorships from either other public or private organizations and participant fees from individuals was last enacted in the budget reconciliation act of 2004, PL 108-447. That authorization, by law, would have ended on October 1 2006, and has been extended only by repeated continuing resolutions pending an overall SBA program reauthorization. In the 111th Congress neither the Senate SBA program reauthorization Bill S.1229 nor the approved House reauthorization Bill H.R. 2352 included provisions to reauthorize sponsorship and participant fees, which are vital to continuing SBA communication activities. Neither of the bills was approved by the Congress, so the issues will be reconsidered this year.
Section 2 would permanently re-enact the provisions of the expiring Public Law 108-447, authorizing SBA to use gifts, public and private event co-sponsorships, and participation fees for educational, outreach, and marketing activities, subject to specified limitations, semi-annual audits, and Congressional review.
Section 3 - National Small Business Summit on Economic Growth
The country is still at the middle of a new Presidency, with many new leaders in the Administration, at SBA and other federal agencies, and in the Congress. For these leaders to be effective in helping rebuild the small business economy, they need to better understand its current needs. It has now been 16 years since the federal government last sought broad based and balanced input on the problems that effect small business, at the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business
New and different problems now threaten the survival and potential growth of the small business economy. Bills to authorize a next National Summit on Small Business have been introduced in the last five Congresses, but have failed to have enough legislative priority for passage. Summit proposals have received strong support from leaders of the 1995 White House Conference, and from representatives of many of the major small business organizations including the US Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, NSBA, NASE, and NAWBO. The Summit was recently selected as the top 2011 legislative priority of NSBA. Now, with the severe impacts of the economic recession, it is critical that Congress take action to initiate another National Small Business Summit, focused on economic recovery. No one can better identify the problems facing small business, or help develop the most cost effective solutions for them, than actual small business people who have been impacted by them.
The Summit would provide an efficient opportunity for government representatives and a representative national sample of small business leaders to analyse, discuss and prioritize small business issues. Recommendations would then be developed for Congressional or Agency consideration.
The Summit would be bi-partisan, including representatives from all states, and reflect the country's geographic, economic, and social diversity. The delegates would be real small business people, appointed by members of Congress, Governors, and the President, or selected from applications submitted to the SBA Office of Advocacy as is normally done for Federal advisory groups. The new Summit format would involve Congress more heavily in the selection of both the organizing Commission and Summit participants. Administration and Congressional leaders would also receive recognition and have an opportunity to participate in the Summit.
The Summit would also provide Congress and the Administration with broadly based input from small businesses, rather than the positions of business trade associations and organizations that focus mostly on their own or their industry's priorities. Actual small business owners will be able to communicate what they need to help grow their businesses and the economy
The Summit would be efficiently organized, with policy guidance from an appointed Advisory Council of small business leaders and the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy, to assure that the process effectively identifies the most significant small business issues.
To reduce funding needs, the Summit would utilize cost efficient electronic information sharing and communication technologies, to develop and communicate issues before during and after the Summit. This would eliminate the need for the costly state and regional conferences that were used for the 1995 Conference process, although states would be encouraged to hold optional state small business summits. Elected issue leaders could also continue to provide small business input to the SBA Office of Advocacy after the Summit. This would provide SBA with input on new and changing issues, and help assure that Agency’s programs and positions reflect current small business needs.
Corporate sponsorships would be used to offset the cost of Summit events and meals, and participant registration fees would cover remaining direct expenses of the Summit. There would be no public expense other than the staff time of SBA personnel and other government participants in summit events, and printing and electronic communication expenses.
Although the 111th Congress Senate and House bills called for a Summit to be held prior to the end of 2010, that date should now be changed to June of 2012 or 2013, depending on the date of passage. This would allow a more realistic time for Congressional approval, and adequate time for SBA to properly plan and conduct the Summit.