April 12, 2012
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “SBA administrator adjusts lending system” — When Karen Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration visited Green Bay last week, her mission was twofold.
Not only did she highlight the effectiveness of SBA loan programs with a tour of DeLeers Millwork, but she also took time to meet with the SBA partners and encourage them to continue to work together to help small businesses. SCORE is one of those groups.
At the Business and Manufacturing Center at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Mills met with representatives and emphasized the different roles that each group plays in the process. In defining the role of the Small Business Development Center, she called it the SBA’s ground game.
SCORE, with 12,000 volunteers nationwide, was referred to as the bone structure.
“It’s about all of our partners becoming more connected to provide a seamless experience for small businesses,” Mills said. “The president wants us to be a virtual one-stop shop.”
In addition to SCORE volunteers, Mills leads a team of 3,000 employees whose mission is to help entrepreneurs by providing greater access to capital, counseling, federal contracting opportunities, and disaster assistance. She reported that 2011 was a banner year with small businesses receiving $30 billion in SBA-backed loans.
Mills said her mission is the three C’s: providing capital, assisting with government contracting opportunities and enhancing collaboration among partners.
In her role, she is attempting to streamline systems. The SBA is compiling a list of all of the various organizations that provide grants, loans and other business assistance on the new site, www .business.use.gov. The site has a search menu that allows small business owners to search for programs by geography.
She also is trying to make it easier to apply for programs by developing a data locker.
The locker would allow businesses to enter data once and upload information that can be automatically used in future applications.
“We are thinking differently than we did in the past. It’s about making systems better to help businesses know what programs they’re eligible for,” Mills said. “We need to be nimble and flexible.”
In addition, Mills has focused on going after fraud, waste and abuse, so funds are appropriately used. This is extremely important in order to serve the increasing number of entrepreneurs that are seeking assistance.
Among the partners, many noted that their groups set records in 2011 for the number of clients served, and this year has continued at the same brisk pace. Mills said that this shows the tremendous need for groups to work together so that everyone who needs assistance is able to get it.
Since she serves in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, she works closely with him.
Mills said that he is committed to the SBA’s mission to attract and support small businesses.
“The president’s push is for all agencies to put their programs out there. More work means more turf covered,” Mills said.