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Small Business Week 2013: ‘You Are the Backbone of America’

“Small business. You are the backbone of America,” State Sen. Royce West, D-Texas, told Dallas attendees of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Week 2013. Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the government-backed SBA, kicking off a weeklong, cross-country tour with stops in in Seattle, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. to honor small businesses. The event focused on small-business trends, including the rise of older-generation entrepreneurs, aptly named “encore entrepreneurs,” an increase in small-businesses exporting, and national growth for loans to small businesses.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills, who was sworn in by President Barack Obama in 2009, attended the Dallas event and moderated an armchair interview with AARP President Rob Romasco and Michael Minton. The panel discussed the higher rate of entrepreneurship among people ages 55–64 than those between 20 and 34, according to the AARP. The rise in older entrepreneurs dispels the perception that “everybody is going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg,” Romasco said. The AARP reports that one in four people between ages 47 and 70 intend to start a business within the next 5–10 years, with 100,000 encore entrepreneurs entering in the next year. Additionally, these encore entrepreneurs come with richer backgrounds than budding entrepreneurs. “They offer 20–30 years of work experience, a real undertaking of how the world works, and have a real desire to start a business,” Romasco said.

Another panel titled “Growing and Going Global with Supply Chain” featured managers and representatives from major corporations, including Dell Computer, AT&T and Mary Kay, to discuss the trend of small businesses now exporting their supplies and services to not only corporations, but internationally as well. Dell Computer Product Manager Melissa Wurzer extended advice on directing small businesses to supplier websites such as Supplier Connection, a type of one-stop shop for small businesses to promote themselves to viable partners.

The SBA offered optimistic figures on small-business loans. Mills said the past two years have been record years for small-business loans, an effect of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. She spoke confidently of the government’s 2014 budget request that would eliminate the fees on loans under $150,000 specifically.

Dallas in particular has seen major growth in small-business loans in the last year alone. “We’ve seen a 40% increase in lending this year compared to last,” said Herbert Austin, Director of the SBA’s Dallas/Fort Worth District Office. “The banks are opening their purse. And small businesses are resilient.” He credits the higher level of confidence in the overall economy for this growth.

Small Business Week 2013 conveyed that across the country things are trending upward for small businesses.

According to the SBA, there are 28 million small businesses in the Unites States. It encouraged attendees to utilize the tools, webinars and the administration’s free mentoring service SCORE to continue to encourage American entrepreneurship.  

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