Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Federal Assistance Programs given boost

The Griffin Method reports an extensive budget increases for the SBA as detailed in a Senate news release. On March 14, the Senate reported that it will increase funding for the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the 2009 budget blueprint by adding $100 million above the President’s request.

This action reverses six years of budget cuts, resulting in a boost for America’s 27 million small businesses.

It restores or adds additional funding for increased loan oversight and reduced fees, microloans, contracting assistance, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, veterans outreach programs, and technical assistance programs, among others. Both Democratic Presidential nominees voted for the proposal, and the Republican nominee for President did not vote on the action.

The Senate’s budget would increase funding for greater SBA oversight of lenders in the 7(a) program by providing $9 million. The 7(a) and 504 loan programs are the largest source of long-term capital for small businesses, helping create or retain over 824,000 jobs last year.

SBA’s $3.6 million in funding for Microloans is restored (from zero) and Microloan Technical Assistance gets $20 million (the President’s 2009 budget sought to eliminate these). For 2008, small businesses received more than $31 million in microloans, proportionally helping more women and minorities than other programs. Also $5 million (from zero) restores the New Markets Venture Capital and New Markets Technical Assistance programs. These programs promote economic development and the creation of job opportunities through equity investments in low-income areas.

Several of SBA’s Entrepreneurial Development and Outreach Programs will be enhanced. Small Business Development Centers will increase to $105 million, up from $87 million. The 950 SBDC offices around the country provided counseling to 600,665 businesses last year.

Women's Business Centers got $17 million, increased from $11.9 million. There are 95 Women’s Business Centers providing business assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged women and men (in 2007 WBCs helped 147,000 businesses).

A veterans entrepreneurship bill signed into law in February 2008 established a grant program for SBDCs to provide more information to veterans about small business resources, and now SBA’s Veterans Programs will be increased to $2.3 million (up from $743,000) and SBDCs to $3.25 million. Native American Outreach will increase $2 million (up from $730,000). U.S. Export Assistance Centers will increase to $8 million (from $6.4 million). These centers help small businesses compete and succeed in the global marketplace.

Contracting Programs and Assistance will be provided additional support as funding for SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives is increased to $11.6 million (from $6.6 million). PCRs monitor federal contracts and “break out” contracts for small firms. 7(j) Technical Assistance Program funding is increased to $5.5 million (from $1.5 million) and provides small disadvantaged businesses with training in financing, business development, management, accounting, and marketing.

HUBZones will increase $5 million (from $1 million). Historically Underutilized Business Zones create incentives for contracting with small firms to create jobs in underserved communities.

Of course, all of this has to pass the House and get signed into law by the President before it becomes reality.

The Griffin Method is a full service-consulting firm assisting businesses to compete for federal contracts. Their home page can be reached at http://www.thegriffinmethod.com/index.php .

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cost of a penny

Did you know it costs $0.017 to make a penny?  And it costs ten cents to make a nickel.  This problem goes away when it comes to the higher denominations.  The Mint wants the authority to adjust the metal content of the coins it manufactures without having to go to Congress and getting a law passed each time.  I think it would be possible to pass a law granting them this authority and which would still provide restrictions which would ensure the proper value of the coins we use for trade.

We have been using promissory paper for decades.  Why does our coinage have to be "worth" the same as the item that we are buying?  It is even a pretense these days that we are getting a 50 cent item in exchange for a piece of metal worth 50 cents when we hand over a 50 cent coin.

As long as our coins are "pretty" and feel substantial enough (which is why aluminum probably would not do), oh, and can not be counterfeited easily, then that should be all that matters.

What does matter is the value of a dollar in the world of trade and markets.  That value depends on the perceived value of our products and the strength of our economy.

I think we should go ahead and give the Mint the authority they are asking for to make the coins out of whatever metal they choose within certain restraints.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Australia May Outlaw Laser Pointers

Doesn't the legislature in Australia have anything more important to deal with these days?

They were used against planes last week. I'm sure criminals also used cars in Australia last week. Will the country ban them next? On the other hand, I'm sick and tired of laser pointers myself. On the third hand, the cats of Australia will be terribly disappointed....

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Cubans savor new freedoms

In the last week, new President Raul Castro has legalized cell phone use for ordinary Cubans; granted Cubans access to previously off-limits tourist hotels; and legalized the sale within Cuba of microwaves, DVD players and personal computers. Cubans are welcoming the change, even if the costs are out of their reach.

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