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Blog Category: Small businesses

MBDA’s Business Centers Expand Reach

MBDA logo

Celebrated since 1963, National Small Business Week recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. Entrepreneurship is an integral part of our country’s DNA and increasing numbers of minorities are becoming entrepreneurs. However, starting a business can be challenging in that the majority of small- to medium-sized businesses often lack access and visibility to helpful resources.

Through a national network of nearly 40 business centers and a wide range of domestic and international strategic partners, the Minority Business Development Agency provides minority-owned businesses with technical assistance and access to capital, contract opportunities and new markets to create new jobs and support the economy. Nationwide MBDA Business Centers help provide heightened visibility and access to valuable opportunities for minority-owned firms through partnerships with multi-national corporations, industry coalitions, and government agencies.

For Kevin Robinson, CEO of RFS Group, LLC, in Indianapolis, IN, hard work and determination helped get his full service janitorial company off the ground. However, taking the business to the next level required some help. Robinson contacted the MBDA Business Center in Indianapolis for direction. The Center provided Robinson with procurement assistance and business counseling. As a result, RFS secured several contracts valued at $16,700, and it was able to hire eight additional employees. Within six months of partnering with the Center, RFS saw its revenues increase by 10 percent.

Supporting Small Business on Saturday and All Year Round

Small Business Saturday

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses across the country.

Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and economic opportunities nationwide. Making certain that small businesses thrive is a goal we support through many of our efforts here at the Commerce Department: from the Small Business Innovation Research awards, to tools that help small businesses protect their intellectual property, to informative sites that help small businesses export or access the broad array of all federal government tools

Over the last two decades, small businesses and startups have been responsible for creating two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S. Today, over half of all working Americans own or work for a small business. It’s clear that when small businesses succeed, so do our communities.

I want to encourage you to shop at your local small businesses when you can. Check out the participating businesses at www.shopsmall.com.

Whether you live in a big city or a rural area… from coast to coast… Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to support your local businesses and your communities. Happy shopping!

 

ITA: Metro Exports Driving Economic Growth

Map of U.S. highlighting metro areas

Ed. note: Cross-posted from ITA's Tradeology blog by Michael Masserman and Ashley Zuelke of the Office of  Export Policy, Promotion & Strategy

Here’s a fact:  the 100 largest metro areas in our country make up just 12 percent of land area—but they make up 65 percent of our population and 75 percent of our nation’s GDP. So when it comes to export growth, it should come as no surprise that metro areas are leading the way.

What may surprise you, is that 13 smaller metropolitan areas across the U.S.—from Asheville, N.C., to Green Bay, Wisc., to Yakima, Wash.— for the first time joined the club of metropolitan markets that exported more than $1 billion in merchandise to the world. These metro areas exported U.S. goods such as machinery, transportation equipment, and computer and electronic products which are in great demand all over the world.

The achievement of these thirteen metropolitan areas and recently released national data for 2011 metropolitan exports confirms the historic progress we are making toward reaching the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Commerce’s NIST Announces $2 Million for Small Business Innovation Research

A woman operates a prototype of an environmental chamber for humidity control by Measurement Analysis Corp. (Photo © Nicholas McIntosh)

The Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded nearly $2 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to 12 U.S. businesses. These awards provide funding to help companies develop technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit.

"We are delighted by the high quality of SBIR proposals we received, and congratulate all the awardees," said Phillip Singerman, associate director for innovation and industry services at NIST. "Over the past year, NIST updated the solicitation process to focus on critical national priorities and provide maximum opportunities for businesses that are just starting out. With three-fourths of the Phase I recipients in business fewer than 10 years and two-thirds of them with 12 employees or fewer, the results of the solicitation demonstrate the success of that process."

NIST's SBIR program is a competitive funding opportunity that provides contracts to small businesses for federal research and development. In Phase I, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the scientific or technical merit or feasibility of ideas that support the commercial potential of their research. If after six months the Phase I awardees have accomplished their goals, they can compete for Phase II funding of up to $300,000 to continue their research and development efforts for up to two years.

Read more about the 12 winners and how NIST will provide technical assistance and direct assistance as allowed by the SBIR statute, as well as direct them to additional resources through NIST's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

EDA Works with Federal Partners to Help Drought-Stricken Rural Areas

President Barack Obama meets with the White House Rural Council on August 7 to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the drought. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

A look at the recent national weather map underlines the reason for the Obama administration’s comprehensive response and action plan: large sections of the country are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades—with levels ranging from “severe” to “extreme” and “exceptional.”

The consequences of drought don’t just affect farmers and their crops and livestock, but have ripple effects throughout the regional economies that depend on them. It is with this in mind that President Obama convened a recent meeting of the White House Rural Council to coordinate an administration-wide response to the drought and focus agency activities to partner and support Americans impacted by it.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), with its decades of experience helping communities stricken by natural disasters, will play an important role to help rural communities with economic recovery. Along with the Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other federal partners, it will leverage its resources, economic tool box, and expertise to help implement initiatives to alert drought-stricken communities to the federal resources that are already available to them.

Job Creation Through Export Development: EDA Commemorates World Trade Month

Logo: World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine

In Commerce Secretary Bryson’s statement to mark World Trade Month, he discussed steps the Obama administration is taking to give “American workers and businesses a fair shot in the global economy by supporting trade agreements that will open up markets to U.S. companies, working to aggressively investigate unfair trade practices taking place anywhere in the world, and continuing to work to ensure that our workers and businesses are competing on a level playing field.” President Obama will issue a proclamation to commemorate World Trade Week, which falls in the third week of May, to expand on this commitment to promote U.S. exports.

Words like “partnering” and “leveraging” might seem abstractions at times, but when it comes to making investments that help U.S. businesses export, they are anything but. One excellent example of the effectiveness of partnering and leveraging the resources of multiple organizations is the “Job Creation through Export Development: Innovative Manufacturing and Service Program” of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP). In 2010, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $1 million to bolster the efforts of WTCGP to promote the global presence of the Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey region. The initiative serves as a catalyst for regional economic growth and job creation in four sectors that have been targeted by the program as having high export potential: energy and environment, high technology and nanotechnology, biotech and life sciences, and education.

Commerce's EDA Hosts Annual University Center Showcase in Denver

UC coordinator Forlesia Willis with DRO’s UC Showcase review panelists. From the left:  Matthew Godfrey, who just completed three terms as mayor of Ogden, UT; Ms. Willis; Denise Brown, interim executive director of Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority; and Nishith Acharya, director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of EDA's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This week, the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Denver Regional office hosted its annual University Centers Showcase conference to spotlight and critique EDA-supported University Center economic development initiatives in the Denver Region.

EDA’s University Center Economic Development Program assists institutions of higher education and consortia of institutions of higher education in establishing and operating University Centers specifically focused on leveraging university assets to build regional economic ecosystems that support high-growth entrepreneurship.

New Job Creation and Economic Impact Dominate Big Numbers for Minority Business Development Agency

Warehouse with workers (Photo: USDA)

2011 proved to be another highly productive year for Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)—the only federal agency tasked to promote the growth and global competitiveness of the minority business community. MBDA is a leader in strengthening the economy and improving the lives of all Americans. We support job growth and economic expansion through a network of MBDA business centers, collaboration with federal, state and local government agencies, and strategic partnerships. The U.S. economy continues to benefit from a strong minority business sector as illustrated by our big numbers below.

  • $1.0 trillion—The combined economic output of the nation’s 5.8 million minority-owned and operated businesses that provide goods and services across all industry sectors, including renewable energy, environmental remediation, manufacturing, information technology and telecommunications.  
  • $10 billion—The total dollar value of public and private sector contracts and capital that MBDA and its network of business centers obtained for minority-owned firms since the beginning of the Obama administration.
  • 15,000 plus—The number of new jobs created by minority business enterprises as a result of working with MBDA and its network of business centers during the first three years of the Obama administration. 
  • 125X—The return on investment the U.S. taxpayer receives from MBDA due to its increased operating efficiencies and focus on job creation.  

We anticipate 2012 will be another great year for the Minority Business Development Agency as we launch new business services, push global exporting opportunities and release recommendations from the National Advisory Council on Minority Business Enterprise. To learn more about what we have planned and how we can help you create jobs and improve your business, subscribe to the MBDA newsletter, visit an MBDA Business Center, and come to our 30th National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Conference.

USPTO: Boosting Small Business with the New Patent Law

The president signing the bill

When President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law six weeks ago, he did more than just implement the largest patent reform since 1836. The AIA aims to help small business secure patent protection for their inventions in a variety of ways. The Act offers not only favorable legal provisions, but also establishes studies and programs to further investigate how Congress may assist small businesses in the future. The provisions in the AIA help simplify the patent law, promote the disclosure of inventions, and establish procedures to remove bad patents from the intellectual property (IP) system early.

By introducing provisions that speed the patent application process and enhance the quality review of patent applications, the AIA enables applicants to secure an examination of an application in one-third the regular time from an average of 3 years to an average of 12 months. Additional provisions will provide an avenue that small businesses may use to challenge bad patents and receive a decision within 12 months. This changes the current practice where decisions on patent validity are determined through district court litigation and may take several years at significantly greater expense.

EDA: Working with the Private Sector to Create Jobs

NASVF logo

Guest blog post by by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Department of Commerce

The Obama administration is collaborating with the private sector in an unprecedented way to promote American innovation, ignite entrepreneurship, and spur small business development to get the economy moving and put people back to work.

And we are seeing results. Private sector payrolls increased by 137,000 in September. And despite a slowdown in economic growth from substantial headwinds experienced throughout the year, the economy has added private sector jobs for 19 straight months, for a total of 2.6 million jobs over that period. While the economy is growing modestly, we understand that it is not fast enough for Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.

That is why it is more important than ever for the federal government to work with industry to create new jobs.