WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, today introduced legislation to increase small business ownership opportunities by improving the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) entrepreneurial development programs. The bill would boost Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), SCORE and other existing entrepreneurial development programs while creating new programs in support of veterans’ and Native American entrepreneurship.

The bill was introduced ahead of tomorrow’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee roundtable on entrepreneurial development and small business export opportunities.

“During this difficult time for our nation, we should invest in the entrepreneurs that will create jobs and lead the way out of the economic recession,” Chair Landrieu said. “SBDCs, WBCs, SCORE and other programs have been instrumental in helping emerging businesses succeed and grow. This legislation will boost these economic development programs to expand counseling and assistance for small business owners, creating a new generation of entrepreneurs who improve their communities and strengthen the economy.”

“The SBA’s entrepreneurial development programs, including the Women’s Business Center and Small Business Development Center networks, are critical initiatives that assist entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses,” said Ranking Member Snowe. “At a time when we are relying on small businesses to lead our economy out of this recession, our legislation will reauthorize and bolster these programs to ensure that the SBA is reaching the entrepreneurs that require this vital assistance. Additionally, we establish a new Veterans’ Business Center program to more effectively benefit the brave members of our Armed Forces and Reserves who, as ‘vetrepreneurs,’ are seeking to start their own businesses. This essential legislation will take significant steps toward ensuring that America’s small businesses have the tools necessary to revitalize our economy.”

Specifically, the bill:

• Reauthorizes the Small Business Development Center program (SBDC), SCORE, the Women's Business Center program (WBC), the National Women's Business Council and the Paul Coverdell Drug-Free Workplace program through 2012;
• Establishes a Veterans Business Center program within the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) to provide entrepreneurial training and counseling to veterans, service-disabled veterans, Reservists, their spouses and surviving spouses, and encourages coordination between participating veterans’ business centers and SBA District Office personnel. The bill also authorizes the OVBD to create an online mechanism to provide information to assist veterans business centers in providing counseling services and technical assistance, and for veterans business centers to be able to distribute information and resource materials and communicate with each other regarding best practices;
• Enhances women’s small business programs by improving the Women's Business Center grant process and clarifies eligibility for organizations that can participate in the program;
• Provides financial assistance to create a pilot program to form Native American business centers that provide culturally-tailored business development training and assistance;
• Establishes a grant program to provide neutral and objective information and educational materials regarding health insurance options, including coverage options within the small group market, to small businesses; and
• Reauthorizes the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) to provide grants to participating organizations for training and technical assistance for disadvantaged entrepreneurs, build these organizations’ own capacity to give training and technical assistance, and fund research and development of "best practices" in microenterprise development and technical assistance programs for disadvantaged microentrepreneurs.