You may have missed the news last week, but on November 18, the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department held a forum to discuss ideas for increasing small business’s access to capital.
The event, hosted by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and SBA chief Karen G. Mills, was first announced last month when President Obama introduced a new initiative to focus part of the federal government’s $700 billion financial bailout on helping small businesses gain access to capital. (Read more  about that plan on Small Business Trends.)
The New York Times  reports that the forum was attended by some 70 people, primarily lenders, government officials and small-business advocates as well as 17 small-business owners. The purpose, Mills said, was “[for] us to listen to the best ideas in the country today, to bring those forward to [the president] and give him some concrete options that he can act on.” The six-hour event included a series of panels and smaller breakout sessions over lunch.
Small-business owners shared their stories, such as Lani Hay of Lanmark Technologies, an entrepreneur quoted by the Times who told how her $12 million technology firm’s line of credit was pulled by her bank just as the business was about to begin work on a $500 million government contract. Much of the discussion centered on what banks and other financing sources needed to make government programs more attractive to them. (When discussing microlending, for example, one microlender suggested the government should create a loss-reserve fund that could be used to attract investors.)
As it is, many lenders contend that small-business loans are too time-consuming and too small to be worth their while. But President Obama has stated that no lenders would receive bailout funds without proving that money they received would actually go to small-business lending.
The suggestions collected at the forum will be put into a report for the president that will be available online. Geithner said he hopes the administration will “be able to put in place the next wave of ideas by the end of next year.” Can small businesses wait that long?