WASHINGTON - Led by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a bipartisan group of Senators from the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship today sent a letter to the Small Business Administration protesting the agency’s plans to eliminate two programs aimed at helping rural small business compete for federal R&D grants.

“Small businesses in rural America desperately need this assistance in order to compete for research grants,” said Kerry, who is Ranking Member of the Committee. “I do not understand why this Administration is withholding this assistance and, why it is attempting to eliminate these programs when small businesses are our greatest job creators. We must do more, not less, to create jobs in rural America.”

The Federal and State Technology (FAST) and the Rural Outreach (ROP) programs enable small businesses in rural and underutilized areas to participate in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs at major federal agencies.

“[T]he FAST and ROP programs have helped small businesses in every part of the country compete effectively for SBIR and STTR projects,” wrote the Senators. “These awards not only provide R&D dollars to small high-tech firms, but they encourage technological advancement, improve overall productivity, increase economic growth and create jobs. Eliminating these important initiatives is unwarranted and unwise.”

The Senators also expressed concerns that the SBA has yet to send out any requests for proposals for this year’s ROP and FAST programs halfway through the 2004 fiscal year, and asked to be informed of the status of the rural research grants.

“Any further delay could severely impede the ability of the programs’ resource partners to reach out to rural America and help small R&D firms across the country to participate in the SBIR and STTR programs,” they wrote.

The letter was also signed by Senators Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The full text of the letter is available at https://www.sbc.senate.gov/