A measure to expand the federal government’s Small Business Development Center program sailed through the U.S. House this week, the first time his colleagues have endorsed a standalone bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District.
Approved by a 375-25 vote, the legislation would increase funding for the program by 30% to $175 million and make changes to allow the centers to market themselves better and expand their reach to more small businesses.
“Thousands of small businesses in my State have launched or grown with help from small business development centers,” Golden told the House, including 1,500 served in Maine last year alone. The Lewiston Democrat said it helped create 136 new businesses in the state.
The ranking Republican on the House Small Business Committee, where Golden holds a seat, called it “a good, bipartisan bill.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, also said on the House floor the program helps “hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs each year and offers a significant return on investment for American taxpayers.”
The program has offices in every state, including Maine. Golden cited a number of Maine businesses that have benefited from the program over the years, including the Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn.
The first-time lawmaker said the SBDC helped it develop a business plan “so that they could secure the financing they needed to acquire and continue the Lost Valley Ski Area, which is very important to our community, particularly during the winter months.”
Among the other examples cited by Golden were the program’s assistance to The Maine Meal in Skowhegan’s bid to purchase a building and the accounting and tax advice it offered to The Milk House in Monmouth.
Golden introduced the bill along with U.S. Rep. Amata Coleman Radewagen, a Republican from American Samoa, who also serves on the committee.
The panel’s chair, Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., said the program run by the SBDC “delivers free face-to-face counseling and at-cost training in all aspects of business management to new and existing small firms.
Among those services, she said, are “assisting small businesses with developing a business plan, accessing capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, technology development and international trade.”
He said one revision in the measure that was particularly happy to see will help the program “broaden rural small business access to this assistance by clarifying that centers are allowed to market and advertise their services.”
Rural areas in states like Maine, Golden said, need more access to Small Business Administration programs.
The bill moves next to the U.S. Senate, where it is likely to find support given the bipartisan backing it received in the House.
Velázquez said her committee worked hard to collaborate with Republicans so it could bring bills to the floor with unanimous, bipartisan backing.
“Our committee prides itself on our ability to put the noise aside and get meaningful work accomplished,” she said on the House floor this week.