March 23, 2021
By JAMES HICKS
A South Carolina business advocacy group is calling for changes at the Small Business Administration.
“SBA needs to have a bigger mission,” said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
His organization launched a nationwide campaign called Reform the SBA.
“We need to have new business startups,” Knapp said.
He said the nation hit a 40-year low for new businesses and the SBA needs to be the one to take charge and lead the country out of that slump.
The campaign calls for the SBA to improve access to capital for new businesses.
“They don’t need a lot of money,” Knapp said.
Many businesses need startup loans of less than $20,000, Knapp said.
The novel coronavirus pandemic provided an opportunity for the governmental agency to show how it could help small businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program is an example of an SBA-administered loan program, Knapp said.
“They can do it,” Knapp said. “The SBA could be making small business loans.”
Knapp said this could help in rural areas, especially in the Lakelands.
The campaign also calls on Congress to give the SBA the tools it needs to address small business needs. Paid family and medical leave for small business employees, portable programs for employee retirement and free technical assistance are ways Knapp said the SBA could help small businesses.
“We need to have a program nationally,” Knapp said.
New small businesses do have access to help on the state level. The South Carolina Small Business Development Centers were created to help new and existing businesses grow. Ben Calhoun is the SBDC area manager and business consultant for the Lakelands region.
“They are doing a good job,” Knapp said.
Knapp is also calling for better regulatory compliance and for the SBA to monitor the federal contracting process.
While Knapp’s campaign to change the SBA is focused on the national level, he said state and area governments play a big role in a small business’ success or failure. He praised the $40 million small business grant program the state government used to help struggling businesses.
Greenwood County small businesses received more than $600,000 from the program.
The key for state government is expanding access to broadband internet, Knapp said.
“The state has got to get a true plan together,” Knapp said.
Many businesses depend on the availability of reliable internet access to operate, he said.
“Affordable, high-quality broadband is something the state could be working more on,” Knapp said.