By Representative Chris Harker (D-Beaverton).
Small businesses employ thousands of Oregon workers and are likely to play a significant role in our economic recovery. These companies have a unique opportunity to take risks and innovate but, as it stands, they are not being given the chance. Lending institutions, many of which have received federal dollars to weather the current economic crisis, are not lending out the very funds the federal government provided to them for exactly that purpose.
On the House floor earlier this year, I spoke in favor of HB 2784, which would have required Oregon-based banks that took federal assistance to appear before House and Senate legislative committees to explain where the money went. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. While this would have been an important step to add accountability and increase consumer confidence in lending institutions, there is certainly more we can do, especially at the federal level.
U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader recently came to Salem to look at the barriers small businesses face when seeking funding. Schrader is looking to make improvements to Small Business Association lending programs, and should be commended for that work. As a small business owner myself, I know first-hand the critical importance of access to working capital. Even in the best of times, there are occasions when short-term cash flow challenges demand a credit line. These days we’re nowhere near the best of times and for small businesses running good ideas on narrow margins, access to loans and revolving credit lines can mean the difference between writing paychecks... or IOUs.
We will work our way through the current crisis. Small businesses, entrepreneurs and Oregon workers will help us get there, but if only we can help them get the capital they need. We can not afford to let this opportunity pass.