Jobs bill aims to give small business a boost

October 5, 2011
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Unless things go horribly wrong, Frank Davis’ company is unlikely to make headlines. And things are going right.

Circle City Rebar recently moved its 13 employees into a 20,000-square-foot facility off West 38th Street that gives them enough room to churn out more of the steel rods used to reinforce concrete in construction projects. The firm has set volume records every month this year.

“We never would have reached the capacity” in the east-side location where he founded the business six years ago, Davis said.

If this pace continues, he expects to hire two more so-called “detailers,” who look at customers’ blueprints and figure out what specific pieces Circle City needs to fabricate. A second shift and an automated steel bender also are on his wish list.

So it’s little surprise that Davis has nothing but praise for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which guaranteed the bank loans that financed Circle City’s startup and real estate purchase—plus a line of credit that enables the firm to cope with fluctuating steel prices.

He commended the agency Wednesday during a meet-and-greet session with SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns. An Indianapolis native, Johns was visiting central Indiana to chat with small-business owners (and the media) about the SBA and President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act.

Nationwide, the SBA backed $30 billion in small-business loans in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, she said. In Indiana, the loan volume nearly doubled, to $520 million.

“This is where our jobs come from,” Johns said. “These tools have made a difference in small business’ ability to grow and create jobs.”

She cited past legislation that reduced fees and increased the size of loans available to entrepreneurs—something Davis said helped Circle City make its move—even as she acknowledged that there still is room to improve.

Increasing the loan ceiling may have helped companies poised to make big investments, but she said the agency is rolling out programs for firms with lesser needs, filling a void left by commercial lenders that aren’t interested in smaller loans.

SBA leaders know entrepreneurs still struggle to line up capital and navigate government red tape, Johns said, and they’re working to lower those barriers.

The American Jobs Act, which Obama unveiled Sept. 8, includes several provisions intended to encourage small-business hiring. Among them: plans to reduce payroll taxes for small firms and offer tax credits for companies that hire long-term unemployed workers or veterans. The administration also would work with securities regulators to make it easier for startups to find investors.

And a proposal to increase funding for infrastructure improvements would help companies like Circle City, which has landed a number of public projects including bridge work along Interstate 69. Johns also touted a quick-pay provision in the legislation that would cut in half the time the federal government has to pay small businesses for their work.

Davis is a believer, but critics nationwide have questioned the $447 billion plan. Some small-business advocates say it doesn’t go far enough. Others call it overly ambitious, both in scope and cost. And Congressional buy-in is far from certain.

What do you think, politics aside? Are the proposed tax breaks enough to spur hiring? Will the legislation make a difference to small businesses?

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