SBA says Black Banks need to step up lending practices
By Mason Harrison Contributing Writer
The U.S. Small Business Administration is asking Black bankers to step up efforts to provide financing for minority entrepreneurs seeking start-up and continuing capital for their businesses. The move comes as the leaders of the nation’s Black-owned financial institutions gathered in New Orleans last week during a convention for the Black bankers’ trade association.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Bankers Association convened in New Orleans Oct. 2-4 and featured a presentation on the importance of minority business development by SBA deputy administrator, Marie Johns. Johns is in charge of managing programs and policy development for SBA, a Cabinet-level government agency under President Barack Obama.
“Small businesses in underserved communities need to have access to capital to grow,” Johns says, but, to date, Black banks across the country have not been a traditional source for would-be and existing business owners to seek out when exploring financing options.
“There has been a dearth of participation in the lending process,” Johns says, “because some of our requirements may not have been clear in the past. But we’ve listened to financial institutions and we have worked to streamline the process that we have in place.”
SBA doesn’t directly lend to small businesses, but the agency helps to facilitate opportunities for small firms to access capital, to including recent initiatives support faster payouts from the federal government to small vendors; a push to allow small businesses to write off $250,000 in investment capital; paperwork reduction efforts; and new tax credit plans.
In July, Johns forged a partnership with the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based Black business group that is unaffiliated with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce. SBA and the Black Chamber, Inc., are developing ways to increase the participation of minority-owned firms in the federal government’s lending process in order to secure funding, something that Johns calls “vital to the health and strength of minority communities.”
On October 10, SBA and the Black Chamber, Inc., will host a seminar to inform potential federal vendors about the ins and outs of the federal contracting process. “The event will give small disadvantaged businesses access to guidance on federal contracting, face-to-face meetings and opportunities to team with larger businesses and graduates of the SBA’s [business development] program,” according to information released about the meeting.
The gathering will also honor successful small business owners who have “worked diligently over the last year, despite harsh economic conditions, and managed to successfully grow their businesses,” Ron Busby, president of the Black business group, says, adding, “We are proud to work with SBA and we are proud of our members.” The U.S. Black Chamber, Inc., began in 2008 and has been a vocal partner with the Obama administration.
Small businesses account for the bulk of economic growth in the United States and employ most of the American workforce. Most Black entrepreneurs operate small businesses, with a large percentage of those firms having only one employee — the owner.
“We are committed to serving all businesses,” Johns says, “but there’s no doubt that minority firms have been hit hard. We believe that the more doors we open for them, the more dollars they’ll receive.”