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The SBA can help firms boost summer business

Rochester Business Journal
July 20, 2012

According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated $1.2 trillion from domestic and international travel and supported 7.6 million jobs last year. This year, the department projects, 65.4 million foreign travelers will visit the United States. With the summer months upon us, small businesses in Western New York should do all they can to capitalize on the expected increase in travel and tourism.
 
The Obama administration recently unveiled its National Travel and Tourism Strategy, a set of policies, actions and recommendations proposed by the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness. The idea behind this initiative is to promote domestic and international travel throughout the United States.
 
The goal is to attract 100 million international visitors annually who would spend an estimated $250 billion each year by the end of 2021. It is estimated that this could add 2.1 million to 3.3 million jobs to the travel and tourism industry. Of course, the beneficiaries of this program would be small-business owners who are helping to create an economy built to last.
 
As a member of this task force, the U.S. Small Business Administration wants to ensure that small businesses in and around Western New York have all the tools and resources needed for a successful summer and tourist season.
 
For example, the SBA provides free advice through its Small Business Development Centers-including one in Brockport-and SCORE. Both organizations are dedicated to providing seasonal businesses with timely advice and counsel on marketing and how to attract new customers this summer. Counselors can be found at www.nyssbdc.com and www.score.org.
 
SBA also can help meet a small-business owner's need for seasonal working capital. If a business needs short-term and cyclical working capital, such as for building inventory for the season or paying workers, then it might want to consider a short-term loan or line of credit through SBA's CAPLines program, which provides advances against anticipated inventory and accounts receivable. The program was streamlined recently to make it easier for small-business owners to get financing even if collateral is tight. Last year, the SBA approved roughly 1,800 loans worth $2.2 billion for travel- and tourism-related small businesses.
 
If you have questions about hiring and compensating seasonal workers (for example, on whether you need to pay unemployment taxes for seasonal workers), you can visit www.sba.gov for tips on hiring and employing seasonal workers.
 
The SBA also recommends that small-business owners develop a marketing strategy to encourage past customers to return to your business. You might even think about ideas for how to lengthen your season.
 
That's what the owner of Pierce Industries in Rochester did last winter. Richard Webb, president and CEO, learned of SBA loan programs at one of the many SBA outreach events. His particular interest was the SBA's Patriot Express loan program for veterans. He then contacted the Rochester branch office to inquire further about SBA programs.
 
Webb got the advice he needed. He met with SCORE and SBDC counselors and, having knowledge of SBA programs, applied for a Patriot Express loan.
 
"Without SBA assistance, our level of production would have fallen precipitously," he said. "The loan was used to purchase a critical piece of equipment to modify one of our machines, resulting in the latest, state-of-the-art central numerical control equipment." The SBA loan allowed the company to retain its 34 employees and hire two more.
 
This summer, let's make sure you and your fellow small-business owners are prepared to support and be a part of our growing travel and tourism industry. It's a win-win situation for all small businesses in the Western New York region.

Jorge Silva-Puras is regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

7/20/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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