The Small Business Administration is brandishing a new image these days—and one that’s more Silicon Valley than Main Street.
In recent weeks, the agency has taken several steps aimed at funding promising startups and regional innovation hotspots that have the potential to create jobs, according to The Washington Post. Among the SBA’s latest moves: It broadened an investment fund for startups that create an economic or social impact in their communities and expanded a grant program that promotes the development of regional innovation hubs across the United States.
Recipients of eight new “ScaleUp America” grants, for example, include Your Management Team (a company helping to grow businesses in economically depressed central Ohio), the Women’s Business Development Center in Aurora, Illinois, and a University of North Florida program aimed at providing entrepreneurial education to small companies in its region.
“We’re unleashing the full potential of entrepreneurs who are developing cutting-edge products and processes that will help ensure American global competitiveness [and] creating support systems for small businesses in regions with the most need, ” SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said in a recent news release.
Contreras-Sweet has said in recent months that she wants to propel the SBA into the 21st century through the use of technology and providing funding to “underserved” entrepreneurial communities. Former SBA Administrator Karen Mills was also a big champion of funding regional innovation clusters as a way to promote U.S. job growth and economic growth through entrepreneurship. It’s young, innovative companies, after all, that create the vast majority of new jobs—not established small businesses.
The SBA’s emphasis on promoting high-growth entrepreneurs isn’t likely to please everyone, however. The agency has cut back on training programs for mom-and-pop small businesses and has focused more attention on established, larger "small businesses." Main Street businesses may view these new initiatives as just one more sign that the SBA is overlooking their needs.
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