U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Aida Alvarez signed a partnership agreement June 1 with the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Community Centers ( NAGLCC ) in Los Angeles. The partnership is intended to increase the participation of lesbian and gay small businesses in SBA's capital-access, contract procurement and technical assistance programs.
Under the agreement, SBA will work with 106 gay and lesbian community centers in 36 states to disseminate information about SBA's small business assistance programs and services to gay and lesbian small business owners and potential entrepreneurs.
The Illinois agencies which are part of the NAGLCC are: Horizons Community Services and Church of the Open Door from Chicago, OUTpost Community & Visitors Center of Champaign, and Diversity of Rock Island.
This outreach effort will continue to expand to other organizations, including the Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and especially to groups in cities and regions with no community centers.
"The Small Business Administration is absolutely committed to the idea that every citizen deserves an opportunity for full participation in the American dream," said Administrator Alvarez, who is a member of Clinton's White House Cabinet. "This agreement will help us get this message out to the gay and lesbian community that the tools SBA offers are available to anyone with the creativity and determination to use them to build a business."
As part of the agreement, SBA District Offices and NAGLCC members around the country will conduct "Meet-the-Lender" forums, orientation sessions on SBA interactive assistance for small businesses, and workshops on the many loan and government contract procurement programs and services available.
"SBA's job is helping people start and grow businesses to provide jobs, shore up neighborhoods and stabilize communities," Alvarez said. "That goes for every community."
The two-year agreement was signed at a news conference at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center. More than 70 reporters and others interested in the signing were plugged in via a conference call.
Alvarez said this was the first time the SBA has conducted a national media call for reporters who cover the gay community, but there was only time for a few questions.
Alvarez said she hopes to create new opportunities for gay and lesbian business owners and entrepreneurs, and attending the press conference was a gay man who used the SBA to start a restaurant in California.
Alvarez said the Clinton/Gore White House remains committed to diversity, and pointed out that Fred Hochberg was the first openly gay appointed member of a cabinet agency—he is the deputy administrator of the SBA.
The SBA just hit a landmark by providing $80 billion in guaranteed loans since the Clinton/ Gore White House began—which is more than in the entire history of the SBA, which was founded in 1953.
For now, there are no actual SBA funds going to assist agencies who are part of this "Memorandum of Understanding" ( or MOU ) with the SBA. SBA resources and staff will be put behind the project, but the GLBT agencies also will be putting out their own resources, which could limit the impact of the program. Many small gay non-profits may not have a lot of available resources to work on the SBA outreach projects.
Nevertheless, Alvarez has started an important program within the gay community, just as Clinton nears the end of time in the White House. Depending on who becomes the next president of the U.S., the nation's GLBT organizations may or may not have a continued working relationship beyond this two-year SBA agreement.
For information about SBA's programs for small businesses, call the SBA Answer Desk at 1-800-U-ASK-SBA, or see www.sba.gov .