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Can the Small Business Administration help fix the economy?

October 28, 2010 |  6:39 pm

The new second-in-command of the Small Business Administration was in Southern California on Thursday, touring the agency's Orange County offices and stopping for lunch at a Knowlwood restaurant in Irvine whose owner recently obtained an SBA loan.

Marie Johns, who was confirmed as deputy administrator this summer, said the SBA is stretching to meet the needs of small-business owners, who have been hit particularly hard by the recession and stop-start recovery.

The agency is stepping into a more public role than it has previously played, Johns said, because the small-business sector has been so ravaged. "The SBA is in a transformational phase," stepping up its well-known role as a facilitator of loans, but also helping businesses in other ways, she said. The agency has been empowered by Congress to exercise greater oversight of government contracting aimed at small businesses, with the hope that more of that enormous pot of money will go to little companies. The agency is also trying to publicize the programs that it runs with nonprofit partners, including counseling and advice for businesses and entrepreneurs.

Johns said she wants to hear business owners' opinions of how the agency is doing and what additional services might be provided to encourage small businesses to expand and hire more people. And if you have something to say, how about (civilly) commenting here too?

-- Sharon Bernstein