Cashman: Women in business are SBA priorities

According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, 8 million U.S. businesses are majority women-owned. Women-owned firms have an economic impact of $3 trillion that translates into the creation and/or maintenance of 23 million jobs, 16 percent of all U.S. jobs.

Marianne Markowitz, U.S. Small Business Administration regional administrator, was in Crystal Lake Thursday visiting Direct Steel, a woman-owned construction firm.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Markowitz is visiting several women-owned businesses each week. Her six-state Midwest office includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing sector in the small business market, she said. “Women opened over 200,000 businesses just over the last year, which equates to about 550 businesses a day,” she said

She said government procurement for women-owned businesses is a priority.

“We’ve always had a goal to to give 5 percent of government procurement into the hands of women-owned businesses,” she said. “Under the Obama administration we were able to put in place the women’s contracting rule, which for the first time lets contracting officers set aside procurement opportunities for women to compete only against women. Now going forward we know that we will meet that (5 percent) goal.”

In all there are 28 million small businesses. “We help about a million Americans each year with access to SBA counseling, federal procurement, and financial programs,” Markowitz said.

“Through Small Business Jobs Act, the loan limits went from $2 million to $5 million, so as a business owner you can get loan guarantees up to 75 to 85 percent for loans up to $5 million, which is significant,” Markowitz said. “It really helps banks to go further down the risk continuum, and make a loan to a small business which they couldn’t without that guarantee.

“We support over 35,000 loans to women-owned businesses totaling about $12 billion,” Markowiz added.

“A lot of people do focus on the SBA’s financial assistance. We’re most well known for our loan guarantee programs. But really what we do for our counseling is even more significant. We really do want to highlight that,” Markowitz said.

“We have such great resources that are out there that really create opportunity.”

Markowitz said the expansion of government spending during the recession was to help small businesses and businesses in general. With the contraction going on in the private sector, it helped a lot of businesses.

“A lot of what we do fits into the priorities of building the economy from the middle out,” Markowitz said. “That’s really the whole focus under this term. And building the middle out is helping middle class Americans to succeed. So our programs help small businesses succeed with our access to financial markets, more assistance in the federal procurement area, and counseling.”

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