The U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday a bill whose goal is to create new opportunities for small business development in the Marianas.
Introduced by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), the Northern Mariana Islands Small Business Development Act will give the 1,700 small businesses in the Marianas equal access to assistance through grants from the Small Business Development Center program and through the Federal and State Technology program.
“Presently, the Northern Marianas is the only place in the U.S. not included in the Small Business Administration’s SBDC and FAST programs,” Sablan said. “My bill, H.R. 6021, will give our small businesses the same access to federal capital and advisory resources as their counterparts in the rest of America.”
With the new grants from the SBDC program, the Marianas would be able to establish a Lead SBDC to expand the capacity of the existing SBDC service center. The Lead SBDC would increase access on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to free or low-cost services that encourage successful growth, such as business planning and incubator workspaces for entrepreneurs.
H.R. 6021 would also give Marianas businesses access to federal research and development opportunities through inclusion in the Small Business Administration’s FAST program. FAST provides funding to strengthen the technological competitiveness of small businesses.
In his floor remarks yesterday, Sablan also expressed support for H.R. 6079, the Microloan Improvement Act, currently being considered by the House. H.R. 6079 includes a provision Sablan requested that makes Marianas small business owners eligible for the Small Business Administration’s Microloan program. SBA provides these loans, typically not offered by banks, of up to $50,000 for working capital or the acquisition of materials, supplies, or equipment. The program would also make marketing, management, and technical assistance available to help women, low-income, and veteran entrepreneurs in the Marianas.
Both H.R. 6079 and H.R. 6021 passed the House on voice votes without dissent and now go to the Senate for consideration. (PR)