For business owners, it can be easy to think of the government as a giant hassle. There’s all that red tape you have to fight for necessary permits, then of course there’s paying taxes, certifying employees, complying with all local, state, and federal laws, and the list goes on.
Still, despite the day-to-day hurdles that take up so much time and attention, our government traditionally has found many ways to support small business and foster growth. Here’s a list of the ways, large and small, that local, state, and federal government work to help your business.
Some local governments will take direct measures to help small businesses in their area, such as offering low interest loans so that business owners can upgrade the facades and exteriors of their stores, increase their energy efficiency, and more. Check with your local government office to see what kinds of assistance services are available.
Also, if you haven’t already looked into your local Small Business Administration site or office, you may be missing resources the U.S. government offers on a local level to assist small businesses and help them thrive. The SBA has an office in most of the cities in the U.S. — you can find the one closest to you on the website — and your regional office can provide you with help navigating relevant business laws, as well as guidance and direction on topics like local incubators, financing programs, and nearby networking events.
Each state is different in terms of its laws and budget, but they all have one thing in common: a vested interest in promoting healthy small businesses. Bigger states like New York offer divisions similar to the SBA, with specific resources such as programs for minority-owned and women-owned businesses, or programs to help fledging food companies with marketing.
Plus there’s always the possibility that your local or state (or even federal) government could become a client. Do some research into your state’s contracting practices, and keep an eye out for requests for new proposals. For more information on becoming a government contractor, click here.
The folks in D.C. have talked a lot about how much they want to support small business. And in some cases, they’ve put their money behind it. Right now, there are a number of government programs aimed specifically at assisting small business owners, from the Reducing Barriers to Entrepreneurship forum to the Veteran Fast Launch initiative, run by the SCORE mentorship program. For a more comprehensive list, click here.
In addition, some federal departments are available to provide guidance in their areas of expertise to small business owners. For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is focused on protecting intellectual property, so if you need advice on how to keep your IP safe, you can contact the administrator’s office. Same deal with other questions dealing with federal law such as export regulations, R&D grants, or tax incentive programs. Those who create some business complications, in other words, are available to help solve them.
Detailed market research is also available to you, thanks to the feds, in the form of U.S. Census data. You can use it to look up the geographic markets in your area if you’re thinking of expanding, analyze details like household spending rates in various locations, and more. That’s like having free access to the best marketing research in the nation.
Before you shrug off the government as a nuisance, it may be worth taking a look at the resources it makes available to assist you. After all, you’re going to have to spend time on those permits and tax returns, so you may as well get some benefits in return.