An ongoing theme of this blog (along with pizza, beer and particle physics) is the failure of the federal government to award small-business contracts to actual small businesses (instead of Fortune 500 corporations). Stung by our incisive critiques, SBA administrator Karen Mills has taken to wearing cocktail dresses to work. Better yet, she has launched a new online training course titled Recovery Act Opportunities: How to Win Federal Contracts. The self-paced instructional aims to help entrepreneurs navigate the federal maze. It gives info on contract rules, how to sell to the government and where to track down the Recovery Act moolah. It’s a valiant effort. As in Plymouth Valiant? Check it out for yourself.
Delivering success? Or asleep at the wheel? It’s so easy to dump on the SBA (and, trust us, that’s the main reason we do it). But it’s not constructive and, perhaps, a little mean-spirited. After all, they are buckling down and doing their level best back in their posh DC offices. Lately they’ve teamed with our crack U.S. Postal Service to produce Delivering Success, a series of 10 YouTube videos featuring successful small-business owners sharing lessons they’ve learned. The entrepreneurs are interesting and helpful. And the videos aren’t all that bad, by high-school AV lab standards. But is this a productive use of tax dollars? We’d say no. The videos were uploaded three months ago and the most popular, Top 10 Business Tips, has been viewed a whopping 470 times. Most of the others have been viewed around 100 times. We don’t know how much this project cost but we’ll bet a large pepperoni it’s a lot of dollars per view.
Search for the lost ARC. CNN Money reports that the pace of loans handed out under the America’s Recovery Capital program is gradually picking up. That’s the boring news. Here’s the interesting part: a map of ARC loans shows they’re overwhelmingly concentrated in two Midwestern states. There have been 352 ARC loans in Minnesota and 264 in Wisconsin, while California checks in with just 68, Texas 61, New York 52, etc. What gives? No one knows for sure. The New York Times surmises that Midwestern banks are looser with the loans because they know their customers personally. As of Sept. 30, the ARC program had backed a total of 2,715 loans totaling around $88 million. Compared with…about a trillion for the financial industry. (This economics stuff is depressing. We’d rather talk beer and pizza. Or particle physics.)