The U.S. Small Business Administration is committed to providing access and opportunity to Americans who are -- or who want to become -- small-business owners. For a variety of reasons, some communities are underserved when it comes to getting the tools they need to grow a business and create jobs. We want to change that.
Our resource partners include Small Business Development Centers, including one at Columbia Basin College that provides training and business counseling for little or no cost. This includes the basics of starting a business and understanding more about topics like finances, marketing, production and management.
We also have Women's Business Centers, in Seattle, Mukilteo and Tacoma, and a Veterans Business Outreach Center in Seattle. Counselors stand ready to help small businesses get connected to resources.
In addition to these counseling efforts, providing access to capital for small businesses in underserved areas is at the top of SBA's agenda. Small firms require financing to grow, hire new employees and invest in the future. That's why we want to invest in them.
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And, it's also why SBA is piloting the Community Advantage program. For the first time, we opened up SBA's most popular loan program to community-based, mission-focused lenders who have a high-touch approach. This includes Community Development Financial Institutions, SBA's Certified Development Companies, microlenders, and others who keep at least 60 percent of their portfolios in underserved markets.
Community Advantage will let these organizations make loans of $250,000 or less, and they can use streamlined paperwork to get the deal done quickly.
Beyond these capital and counseling focused programs, we also help small businesses get linked to the world's largest customer -- the U.S. government. Working closely with other federal agencies, we set aside about one-fourth of all federal purchase contracts for small businesses, totaling nearly $100 billion annually.
This includes specific efforts targeted at service-disabled veteran-owned business, firms in historically underutilized business areas (HUBZones), minority and disadvantaged firms and women-owned businesses.
SBA will continue to find new ways to put more tools in the hands of our job creators, including those in underserved communities. If you are a small business in an underserved community, or know of someone who could take advantage of our programs, go to www.sba.gov.
-- Calvin W. Goings is the Region 10 administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He oversees small-business programs and initiatives in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.