BusinessWeek; By: Jeremy Quittner

Any entrepreneur who's been through a business turnaround might have some empathy for the folks at the Small Business Administration. During the past eight years, the SBA has been, generally speaking, underfunded, underutilized, and underloved. But it wouldn't be all that complicated to transform the agency into a powerful advocate for small businesses. Here's what needs to happen:

Congressional appropriations for the SBA fell to $499.5 million in 2008, down about 26% from 2001, according to Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship. Staff size dwindled to 2,359, off 18% from 2003, says the SBA. "The SBA has seen its funding, staff, and oversight capabilities dramatically diminished," says Kerry. "We need to reverse this trend and reinvigorate the agency." On that front, there's hope: President-elect Barack Obama says he intends to restore the SBA's budget and its former strength.

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