How do we make small businesses stronger? By being great advocates
Borrowers who work with CDC Small Business Finance to make their dreams of business ownership a reality enjoy direct contact with our loan officers, relationship managers and servicing staff. They may not know, however, what goes on behind the scenes, where we have another role – as advocates.
For instance, our executives hold leadership positions within the industry groups that keep up with the legislators and government officials whose decisions profoundly affect the future of small businesses across the country.
The goal, said Kurt Chilcott, our president and CEO, is that “through our advocacy and leadership efforts, that small businesses have access to programs, services and loans that they otherwise may not have access to.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve those programs and services to increase access for small businesses and to reduce the barriers to accessing financing for small businesses.”
A leadership role
The organizations, the National Association of Development Companies (NADCO), National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders (NAGGL) and Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), represent the needs of hundreds of lenders and community groups that serve small business.
Each makes a tremendous impact. We are honored to help them achieve their missions:
NADCO works closely with the Small Business Administration to ensure the broadest possible access to capital by small business. NADCO’s members are non-profit organizations that are SBA Certified Development Companies (CDC’s). The CDC’s deliver financing for small businesses seeking SBA 504 commercial real estate loans.
NAGGL contributes to the success of its 800-plus members by promoting a healthy SBA 7(a) lending industry. The association advocates for these lenders and small businesses using the program. It also provides SBA education, events and free technical assistance.
OFN represents community development financial institutions (CDFI’s), and provides capital, advocacy and capacity building. The network helps CDFI’s in rural, urban, and Native communities. CDFIs provide financing and education to small businesses and community-based projects that mainstream lenders may consider too risky or not profitable enough.
We talked to Kurt, Catherine and Robert about the accomplishments of these advocates for small businesses. They discuss the goal of elevating and advancing the mission-driven finance industry and why it’s so important for us to step up and play a key role.
Champions for small business
CDC Small Business Finance has been an advocate since its inception more than 40 years ago. For Kurt, his predecessor, Arthur H. Goodman, set the standard. Art took meeting after meeting across San Diego County, with banks and anyone who might champion small businesses.
In fact, after two years of these meetings, Arthur joined others who saw a need to do more. They helped form NADCO. A current board member, Steve Stultz, along with a former board chair, Gary Youmans, helped to found NAGGL.
“It definitely goes back to Art,” Kurt said. “If there was a meeting, if there was an organization, if there was something going on that had small business or underserved markets or minority business associated with it, he was there.
“Advocacy is part of our DNA,” he continued. “It is something we have always done. We see again and again the value it brings to business owners and the industry.”
Making a difference
Cat, our chief financial and technology officer, chairs NADCO’s board. She also has held a board seat since 2011 and served as the board’s vice chair. Cat said she has seen a difference for SBA 504 lenders because of NADCO’s work.
“The 504 industry is always facing changing market conditions and business practices,” she said. “So I think it’s important for everybody in the industry to advocate to keep the program going in a way that’s relevant to the marketplace.”
Cat said that’s being done by focusing on “three pillars” for the program – speed, certainty and consistency. Speed largely involves technology improvements, including online applications and platform integration. Certainty and consistency apply to the rules and processes by which lenders can offer loans to borrowers.
There’s also the legislative side. At NAGGL, for Kurt, right now that means watching SBA budget talks closely. Meanwhile, at NADCO, Cat awaits the introduction of key legislation.
“We’re excited about the potential reauthorization of the Small Business Act and what opportunities that could provide to reach more small businesses,” she said.
Advocates form a coalition
The organizations also exist to offer training and guidance to members. Robert, a CDC executive vice president, and president of our affiliate, Bankers Small Business CDC of California, a CDFI, is treasurer at OFN. The network supports lenders and other groups that serve low-income and low-wealth neighborhoods. Their goal is to ensure that business owners and other residents have access to affordable capital and services.
As an example, Robert cited recent OFN webinars on proposed changes to the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA governs the roles of banks in meeting the credit needs of the areas, particularly low-income communities, in which they serve.
“Industry groups bring resources, and with training, they elevate the professionalism of the industry,” he said.
Aside from being advocates and educators, another role Robert sees as crucial is collaboration. He points to an experience at a regional OFN meeting in Los Angeles that already has borne fruit. During a discussion of “hot topics” last summer, those in attendance focused on a discontinued tax credit program.
After a follow-up meeting in the fall, and multiple conference calls, the group grew. Now members are pursuing two programs at the state level to benefit small businesses and affordable housing developers, among other organizations.
Joining CDC Small Business Finance in the effort are Century Housing, Civic San Diego, Housing Advocates, Clearinghouse CDFI, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Nonprofit Finance Fund, Community Vision, Self Help Federal Credit Union, Genesis LA, Enterprise, San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund, Rural Community Assistance Corp., Housing Trust Silicon Valley CDFI, Sustainable Communities Fund, Low Income Investment Fund, Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, Small Business Majority, Rural LISC, California Community Economic Development Association, Capital Impact Partners and Lendistry.
“From a little breakout session in July, you now have this wide coalition,” Robert said.
A voice for small business
The results are tangible in some cases and less so in others. CDC Small Business Finance, by acting as advocates with our industry groups, helped to establish a 25-year 504 loan product and rallied support around the SBA Microloan program. Kurt is clear though that borrowers may not be aware of us acting on their behalf.
“They may never even see it. It may not mean anything to them, but when they get that loan 30 days or two weeks sooner than they would have, it makes a difference,” he said. “We want them focused on running their business, growing and being successful.”
In case you missed it:
- Your 2020 small business forecast from the industry experts at CDC
- How we rally support for SBA loan programs
CDC Small Business Finance offers several loan options for business owners who want to grow or are planning for their long-term needs. Contact our loan experts about your business needs. They’ll work to match you with a financing plan that best suits you. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (619) 243-8667.