Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: Small Business Week

Commerce Department Supports Small Businesses

This week marks National Small Business Week – an opportunity to recognize the invaluable role entrepreneurs and small businesses play in America’s economy. It’s also a time to make sure our small businesses and entrepreneurs know about the services the Commerce Department – and entire federal government – has to offer.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department is committed to supporting them.

Last year, Department-wide contracts with small businesses reached $3 billion, or approximately 40 percent of all contracts. And just a few weeks ago, Commerce awarded a contract to five small U.S. businesses: FCN, Force 3, Intelligent Decisions, Iron Bow, and Red River.

The new contract, which is for network equipment and maintenance, is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. It also streamlines the procurement process, reduces the time needed to award hundreds of separate contracts to do the same tasks, and creates partners in companies that are capable of offering discounts and exceptional service.

In addition to saving money, these contracts support small businesses and the Department’s efficiency, enabling Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission to support American businesses, help create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The Commerce Department is working to increase the number of small to medium-sized businesses that export by making it easier for them to access federal export assistance. That includes expanding access to small business trade financing and ensuring the most efficient delivery of services to small businesses.

For example, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, part of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, reported that 83 percent of the approximately 14,200 export successes they assisted with in fiscal year 2012 were achieved by small and medium-sized enterprises. Further, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker this week announced efforts to expand export opportunities for all American companies, including small businesses. This will help them businesses grow faster and help spread American ideas, innovation and value.

Commerce’s 11 other agencies also have a number of services available to small businesses. Just to name a few, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) helps minority-owned businesses gain access to contracts and capital. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office helps entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly. And the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis produce statistics that help businesses make important decisions, like where to invest or build a new location.

To learn more about federal resources available to help small businesses, visit: http://www.sba.gov or http://business.usa.gov. Also check out www.sba.gov/nsbw and shop at a local small business today!

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.

Commerce’s Economic Data Is a Goldmine for Small Businesses

Graphic of Econmic Census

Public data is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public. For example, the public release of weather data from government satellites and ground stations generated an entire economic sector that today includes the Weather Channel, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options. Similarly, the decision by the U.S. Government to make the Global Positioning System (GPS), once reserved for military use, available for civilian and commercial access, gave rise to GPS-powered innovations ranging from aircraft navigation systems to precision farming to location-based apps, contributing tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy.

The Department of Commerce makes available to small businesses economic data that are important for key business decisions such as where to locate, where to manufacture a product and where to sell that product.

For example, AmFor Electronics, a second-generation, family-owned manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, is the market leader in the manufacturing of alternator and starter testers, which are sold to auto parts stores, auto repair shops, and alternator and starter rebuilders. Using Commerce data like that available in the Assess Costs Everywhere tool, AmFor decided to enter the wire harness sector and chose to locate their manufacturing facility domestically rather than overseas because it provides a shorter turnaround times with fewer defects that ultimately leads to a reduction in costs. These successes have translated into new customers and the hiring of 50 employees.

International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service Makes Exporting Easier for Small Businesses

U.S. Commercial Service Logo

In early 2011, Vanport Outfitters received its first commercial overseas order from Japan. That is when they started working with the U.S. Commercial Service, which assisted them throughout the export process. Some challenges Vanport faced included building brand awareness and finding quality contacts overseas to do business with. To address these issues, Vanport used U.S. Commercial Service business matchmaking services. “As a small company, few have heard of us, and are already selling competing products from better known firms. We find that we have to work hard to demonstrate that we’re serious about our craft. We really enjoyed working with the U.S. Commercial Service and found that the services provided helped make selling our goods outside the country easy, and we are continuing to build our brand awareness,” said Thomas Craig, Business Manager at Vanport Outfitters.

The company decided to focus on their export potential and actively pursue other markets, and in doing so, relied on assistance provided by the Trade Information Center, including market research, trade counseling, and assistance with export regulations. The result was that Vanport Outfitters has received additional orders from ten different countries, and is planning to export into East Asia, Oceania, Europe, and Canada.