Curious About the SBA?

I’ve always been a bit of a history buff. My favorite questions seem to be “how” or “why”.  I found myself wondering about the Small Business Administration. So here’s just a little more history …

We hear so much about small business being the backbone of the US economy.  There are studies and reports about entrepreneurial activity (by the government, the Kauffman Foundation, and literally hundreds of other sources).  Until recently, I suppose I thought the Small Business Administration had always been there. Yet it is only 57 this year, established as an independent federal agency in 1953 by Congress’s Small Business Act.

I was particularly pleased by language in the Act’s Paragraph 2(a): “The essence of the American economic system of private enterprise is free competition. Only through full and free competition can free markets, free entry into business, and opportunities for the expression and growth of personal initiative and individual judgment be assured. The preservation and expansion of such competition is basic not only to the economic well-being but to the security of this Nation.” Wow!

The business development programs that led to diversity certification are described in Paragraph 2 (f) (1):

“(A) that the opportunity for full participation in our free enterprise system by socially and economically disadvantaged persons is essential if we are to obtain social and economic equality for such persons and improve the functioning of our national economy;

(B) that many such persons are socially disadvantaged because of their identification as members of certain groups that have suffered the effects of discriminatory practices or similar invidious circumstances over which they have no control;

(C) that such groups include, but are not limited to, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Indian tribes, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and other minorities; …”

You can read the entire act for yourself, but these paragraphs are the foundation for the SBA’s 8(a) business development program.

In 1958, Congress extended financial assistance through the Small Business Investment Act, in an effort to make adequate, long term-financing available.  This act made the SBA a permanent agency.  In 1964, the SBA began offering the Equal Opportunity Loan Program.  This program helped applicants who lived below poverty levels get access to funding for viable commercial enterprises through reduced credit and collateral requirements.

The SBA provides help with federal procurement opportunities, management counseling, international trade, financing and education to small US business.  You can learn more about these services at the SBA’s website. Taking advantage of these programs may assist you turn your business dreams into realities.


  1. Jerry Chautin on November 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    You are misleading your readers to believe that financially challenged applicants can get SBA-guaranteed loans. They cannot. The banks that make these loans want 700++ credit scores, a substantial cash down payment, solid collateral and related industry experience. In fact most banks will not finance start-ups. Furthermore, there is no distinction made in underwriting disadvantaged, women or veteran borrowers vs white men.

    The Section 8 program is for disadvantaged persons and veteran borrowers to procure government contracts. But they must be in business for at least two years and have the marketing machine in place to make lots of personal sales calls. Notably, most of the successful Sec. 8 contractors are located within the Washington, DC Beltway. That’s because it is impractical for others to form relationships and build trust with procurement officers. Advice: Pay a proven intermediary to represent you.

    Jerry Chautin is a business columnist. He is a former entrepreneur, commercial mortgage banker, commercial real estate dealmaker and business lender. You can follow him at

    • Joanne on November 10, 2010 at 11:53 pm

      Interesting – thanks for your thoughts. This item is about the original lanuage and stated political intent of the 1953, 1958 and 1964 Small Business legislation, not a representation of how the SBA and its SBIC partners make lending decisions.

      Engaging third parties for relationship building is always an option. It is, however, possible to become a successful 8(a) vendor outside DC by building direct relationships with the independent regional procurement officers in many federal agencies.

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