What About Us

Jim Blasingame As a result of the events of 9-11, the airline industry was literally shut down by government order for several days. For a number of reasons, airline customers are now slow to return to the ticket counters.

Already financially weak prior to Terrible Tuesday, the industry has now asked for and received financial aid from the U.S. government. Specifically, $5 billion in cash, and $10 billion in loan guarantees.

I could write a long article on the pros and cons of this bailout, but I'm not the airline advocate, or their detractor. I'm The Small Business Advocate, and my question to the government is, "What about small businesses?" In our own way, and on our own level, many small businesses have been just as devastated by what has happened as any airline.

Obviously, there are small businesses at or near ground zero that need significant help. Plus those grounded by association with air travel are in dire straits. But all across America little companies are hurting, and the pain will get worse as we move into 2002.

The speed and quality of the national economic recovery is going to depend largely on the viability of small business. Here's why:

• Small business produces over 50% of the U.S. GDP.
• We give birth to over half of all innovations in America.
• Over 70 million American families receive paychecks from a small business. Do the math on how many consumers are represented in those households.

The problem is, in terms of a voice, we're decentralized. And other than some very effective groups like the NFIB and the SBSC, plus at least one talk show host, we don't speak with one voice like our big cousins.

And while we don't all have the same problems, like the airlines, we do have one common denominator: We ALL rely on borrowed funds from banks as our major source of working capital.

Every lending decision made in a bank today is done with a glance over the loan officer's shoulder by Fed regulators. If the government wants to make sure that the owners of 98% of all businesses in the United States have the maximum opportunity to survive, they will take IMMEDIATE steps, through the Federal Reserve organization, to encourage banks to work with small business owners to help us get thought the next 18 months.

In the past, credit-easing policies by the Fed had a lag time, from policy shift to field implementation, of several months. This easing policy doesn't need to be mailed, or even faxed to banks. It must be emailed. Better yet, use Instant Messaging.

One thing I know about entrepreneurs is, we don't look for handouts. We're don't wait around whining for some kind of a leg-up from Big Brother. But this is one time when frankly, I consider helping small business in the national interest, like having national petroleum reserves and maintaining the interstate highway system.

My friend and Brain Trust member, Rich Galen, has a lot more stroke with the Administration than yours truly. So I have encouraged Rich to go to bat for us, and he has agreed to try to help. Thanks, Rich. Go for it.

I'll keep you posted on what Rich is proposing. But you might want to subscribe to his free newsletter at to get it direct.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must warn all of my Democrat subscribers that Rich is an ardent Republican. Which is pretty handy since we currently have a Republican administration. Personally, I belong to the Small Business Party. And we take our help where we can get it.

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