June 12, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Get Started: Export Help for Small Businesses

June 11, 2012

The Associated Press

Two members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship have introduced a bill that would require the Small Business Administration to help small companies export their goods and services. The Go Global Act of 2012 would allow the SBA to hire 20 more staffers to give counseling and financing help to small businesses. It would also require the SBA to develop a program to train employees of the Office of International Trade to work with small businesses.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who chairs the committee, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. The legislation also would require the SBA to develop a small business export strategy that will include recommendations for improving export opportunities for small companies. The strategy would also include recommendations for protecting small businesses from unfair trade practices by other countries. And it would include recommendations for getting more input from small businesses as the government develops its trade and export policy.

According to Census Bureau figures, small businesses had a total of $276.7 billion in exports in 2010. That was nearly a quarter of the country's total exports of $1.1 trillion.

ECONOMIC CONCERNS

A recent survey of small business owners shows that they're concerned that the economy will weaken, but they're feeling fairly confident about their own companies. Most aren't planning to hire more employees this year — but that's because many have the right number of staffers at their companies.

The survey taken last month by Citibank found that 76 percent of owners are very or somewhat concerned that the country will experience another economic downturn this year. Eighty percent of the survey participants said their companies were either very or somewhat prepared to deal with one. The survey questioned 750 business owners

The results were in line with those of other recent surveys. The majority of owners who took part — 57 percent — see current business conditions as fair or poor, while 43 percent called business good or excellent. Only a third said their own business is better off now than it was a year ago. Forty-one percent said business is about the same, and 26 percent said business was worse.

Three-quarters of the owners said they plan to keep their staffing levels unchanged this year. Nineteen percent said they'll be hiring, and 5 percent said they'll cut their payrolls. Sixty-one percent of those who aren't hiring said they have the right number of employees for their current level of business, and another 9 percent said they recently hired workers and now have enough people working for them.

About half the owners said their companies aren't growing or shrinking, but are poised to grow when business conditions are right. Thirty-seven percent said their companies are growing, and 13 percent say they're scaling back or may have to close their business.

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Joyce Rosenberg can be reached at http://twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg



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