How does a cable cross the road?
It's not a joke to Steve Arnold, vice president, registered communications distribution designer and outside plant specialist with ACE Midwest, LLC, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business in Parkville specializing in telecommunications design and installation.
It's reality. ACE designs and installs fiber cables for the Army, Veterans Administration (VA), the University of Kansas, University of Missouri and other institutions scattered across the Midwest as far south as New Orleans. To cross a road, there are two choices: aerial or underground. If requested, Steve's brother and the firm's president Ernest and his crews will install the necessary poles, cable and hardware for an aerial installation. If an aerial installation isn't possible because of distance or other prohibitive factors, the crews place the fiber cables underground by trenching or using boring equipment. The brothers share certain responsibilities: Ernest handles finance and logistics, Steve covers the design and bid preparation.
Veterans are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed, says the SBA. The organization, motivation and discipline required to succeed in the military are similar to the traits business owners need.
A fine example is Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) client and Army veteran Floyd Henson, Henson Enterprises Inc., West Plains, manufacturer of precision-machined parts for such firms as Caterpillar, Regal-Beloit and DRS Technologies.
We first wrote about Henson in last year's TRANSFORMATION (PDF). Now Henson describes his business and the aid and assistance provided by Willis Mushrush, MO PTAC procurement specialist, in making his business a success and leaving it to the next generation.
Read the full story and see the video.
The Small Business Administration announced a new initiative to help veteran entrepreneurs access funding. Starting Jan. 1, 2014 and running through Sept. 30, 2014, there will be no fee for SBA Express loans of $350,000 or less made to veterans. This program was announced during SBA's National Veterans Small Business Week, an initiative on the part of the SBA to reach out to veteran entrepreneurs and business owners.
"Our nation's veterans are highly skilled and highly trained leaders in their communities," said Acting SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit. "This initiative ... is part of SBA's broader efforts to make sure that veterans have the tools they need to start and grow a business. As we honor our veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifice, let's continue to identify ways to support them when they come home."
This initiative follows SBA's announcement that for fiscal year 2014, fees on loans for $150,000 and less are zero.
For more details, see SBA's news release.
"Strengthening Regional Assets," the University of Missouri's portion of a $1,842,977 Make it in America collaborative grant focused on small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technology funded by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the Department of Commerce, has been awarded to the Business Research & Information Development Group (BRIDG), a unit within the MU Extension Business Development Program (BDP) and the MU College of Engineering. Dr. David Schmidt, BRIDG director, is the principal investigator.
The other agencies receiving SMR grant funding are Missouri Enterprise, a group focused on Missouri manufacturers, which received funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct "Connecting Regional Supply Chains and Assisting Small-Medium Enterprises," and the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, which received funding from the U.S. Department of Labor's Education and Training Administration to conduct "Building a Highly Skilled and Diverse Workforce."
MU's portion of the SMR project will be a logistics study of component rail, water and highway transportation to the proposed construction site at the Callaway County Nuclear Reactor. The BDP will also provide technical assistance in business-level strategic planning, financing and business growth to potential suppliers.
Small modular reactors, pioneered by global energy titan Westinghouse, are just that: smaller, more cost-effective nuclear power plants with an electricity output of less than 22,500 kilowatts. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average American nuclear power plant generated about 12.2 billion kilowatts in 2011. Modular reactors are manufactured and brought to a site, the proposed Callaway County site in this case, fully constructed, allowing for less on-site construction costs, increased containment efficiency and heightened security.
Other stakeholders and partners include Westinghouse; Ameren UE, operator of the Callaway County nuclear facility; the Missouri Department of Economic Development; Linn State Technical College; and the Missouri University Research Reactor.
Over the three-year grant time-frame, Ameren plans to purchase five SMRs, generating manufacturing and on-site assembly jobs. A secondary impact will be jobs created in other industries, such as construction, hospitality and retail, which support workforce and infrastructure workers at the site.
Three BDP staff members have won MU Extension awards for superior service:
- Rebecca ("Becky") Nace, assistant director and project manager, Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (TAAC), 2013 Associated Industries of Missouri Extension Industry Award
- Richard Proffer, business development specialist, Cape Girardeau County Extension SBTDC, 2013 Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry Extension Business Award
- Kevin Wilson, director, St. Louis SBTDC, 2013 Extension Teamwork Award
"Winning these awards is a great honor for Becky, Richard and Kevin, the MO SBTDC and the communities they serve," said Steve Devlin, director of the BDP, which hosts TAAC and the SBTDC. "The awards speak to their dedication, persistence and ingenuity in helping startups and existing businesses and generating prosperity in Missouri."
Nace was recognized for her leadership in providing educational programs that support the economic viability of Missouri firms. In the past year, her clients' profitability increased to a combined total of $350 million, up from $222 million the year prior, a 57 percent increase in revenue. Her clients' employment also increased last year to a combined total of 1,567 individuals.
Proffer was honored for exceptional guidance and instruction in starting or improving businesses in southeast Missouri. Proffer, who won the Associated Industries of Missouri Extension Industry Award in 2010, manages business development in an eight-county area, helping entrepreneurs start a business, stay in business and plan for future growth.
Wilson and a team of community development, nutrition and health specialists and social workers developed and implemented the St. Louis Healthy Corner Store Project. This project seeks to place affordable, nutritious foods in neighborhoods without such options. Kara Lubischer, MU Extension community development specialist; Linda Rellergert and Mary Wissmann, Extension nutrition and health specialists; and Shirley Porterfield, associate professor of social work, University of Missouri-St. Louis, were co-winners of the award.
Small Business Saturday, small business' response to Black Friday (big-box retailers) and Cyber Monday (e-commerce) falls on Nov. 30 this year, two days after Thanksgiving.
And while the National Retail Federation forecasts the average holiday shopper will spend $737.95 this year (2 percent less than last year), this is still the busiest shopping time of the year for many businesses, big and small.
Still not convinced you ought to participate? The organizers of last year's event estimate that small businesses enjoyed sales of $5.5 billion last year.
More important than any one-day, or even month-long revenue boost, however, is the opportunity Small Business Saturday represents to attract and engage friends and neighbors on an ongoing basis. After all, what's more important, a large holiday sales volume or a good, permanent relationship with your community?
There's another opportunity here too: Small businesses aren't always great at building networks that sustain and nurture one another. They often exist in isolation, despite common interests and problems. This day is a chance to find common cause with businesses like yours, share ideas and grow.
For great ideas on how to make the most of Small Business Saturday, go to Twelve tips for Small Business Saturday in our October newsletter or the official Facebook page or Twitter feed (hashtags #smallbusinesssaturday and #smallbizsaturday). The SBA also features tips, updates and web chats to maximize holiday profit and increase sales volume.
This is your day. Make it, the rest of the holiday season and beyond, lucky days.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a broad range of new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Technology Transfer (STTR) grants in eight different clean energy fields. These include advanced manufacturing; building design and efficiency; fuel cell, geothermal, wind and solar energy; and vehicle, especially electric and fuel cell vehicle, technology. Grants for research range from prototype fuel cell-battery electric hybrid trucks for waste transportation to software for photovoltaic cost reduction and offshore wind equipment transfer systems.
Eligible businesses must file a letter of intent by December 16, 2013. Application deadline is February 4, 2014.
The government is also making a concerted effort to include minority- and woman-owned small businesses that seek to move their cutting-edge technologies to market. These businesses are strongly encouraged to apply to these programs.
SBIR and STTR awards provide grants from a number of federal agencies to develop and potentially commercialize innovation. These funds are intended to help cover costs for research and development. The two programs divide research-to-commercialization into three phases: Phase I, feasibility research; Phase II, what the government calls "proof of concept" research; and Phase III, commercialization, not funded by either program. If an SBIR/STTR-funded R&D project successfully graduates to Phase III, commercialization is up to the applicant, not the government.
SBIR grants and contracts are issued to qualified small businesses. STTR grants and contracts are issued to small businesses collaborating with nonprofit research institutions.
Got a great product but need help navigating these complex, rewarding programs? Contact one of the BDP's technology development and commercialization specialists.
You may know that more than 95 percent of the world's economic activity is outside the United States, with 96 percent of the world's consumers living outside our borders. But only 3 percent, or around 4,000 small businesses in Missouri, exported their goods or services in 2008, according to the U.S. Census, the last year for which statistics are available.
The SBTDC and Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) want to change that.
DED's Global Market Access Program (GMAP), a new cost-sharing program that helps small businesses participate in international trade shows, missions and events and attract a global audience, is one answer. Travel costs, logistics and exchange rates can be a nightmare for even the largest multinationals.
GMAP's target audience is small Missouri businesses, primarily manufacturers, with 500 or fewer employees and with annual sales of $25 million or less. GMAP will cost-share for a minimum of 40 new-to-market exporters, half of them rural, with maximum funding of $12,000 per firm.
It's important to choose the right event and location. Exhibiting at an international aerospace show if you're a snack maker might not be a good idea, for example. For a listing of international trade shows, trade missions and state-sponsored sales trips from Dusseldorf to Dubai, go to ded.mo.gov/exports/trade-events.
A firm must currently export to at least one market, be registered to do business in Missouri and be in good standing with the Missouri Secretary of State. For a complete listing of rules, a checklist and an application, see ded.mo.gov/exports/global-market-access-program. Application deadline is December 31.
For assistance getting your goods and service overseas, contact one of the SBTDC's international trade specialists.
National Federation of Independent Business
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is America's leading small-business advocacy association, dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of small businesses to own, operate and grow their business.
A nonpartisan, nonprofit association, the NFIB counts 350,000 small and independent business owners across the nation as members. When the NFIB speaks, the media, Federal Reserve, Congress and state legislatures listen.
The NFIB can also directly benefit your business. The organization pools members' purchasing power to offer the products and services you need to grow a business, including commercial and health insurance; credit card processing; reduced shipping rates; savings on office equipment, maintenance and repair supplies; website design and online marketing tools, among many other services.
According to the NFIB, 60 percent of members have five or fewer employees.
Visit NFIB's website for more information or to join the NFIB.
Bonus! Top five tips for a paperless office
If pine trees had aspirations, no doubt they would all want to be Christmas trees adorned with decorations and standing as the focal point for holiday spirit.
Even though most pine trees in the U.S. are planted for paper, they are still giving us a great service because all forests absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. However the production of paper uses large amounts of water, bleaching agents and fossil fuels for a product that is often used once and discarded. Or when it is not thrown away, it is taking up space in file cabinets and warehouses in the form of old records, duplicate forms, outdated marketing materials, paid invoices and past receipts.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average office goes through 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Reducing paper use from one office would provide an environmental benefit equivalent to a 0.75 acre pine forest absorbing carbon for a year. An increasing number of companies are going paperless as a savvy business decision to reduce costs, improve security and help the environment.
Here are the top five reasons to go paperless. As a bonus, we've included five tips to help you make the transition.
Top five reasons to go paperless
With a paperless filing system, searching through thousands of files becomes as easy as "Ctrl + F." Of course there is a learning curve, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) suggests that going paperless increases the productivity, functionality and efficiency of an office.
- Saves money.
A paperless office obviously buys less paper, saving an average of almost $80 per employee, according to the EPA. But less obvious is the far more significant savings in ink, toner, postage, files storage space, trips to the post office and time spent shredding old files or searching for misfiled documents.
According to the U.S. Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development, veterans own approximately 2.4 million businesses across the country — or 9 percent of all of America's companies. Those businesses generate about $1.2 trillion in receipts and employ nearly 6 million workers. Broaden the definition to include businesses in which veterans are at least half owners, and the numbers rise to 3.7 million businesses, $1.6 trillion in receipts and 8.2 million employees.
Funding and technical assistance abound for veteran-owned businesses. Here are just 11 in honor of Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
- Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers (MO SBTDC).
The MO SBTDC offers a variety of resources to veterans and their families who want to start or grow a business, including programs that help veterans with disabilities.
- Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC), another BDP program.
MO PTAC provides confidential services including counseling, computerized bid matching, prime contractor outreach, bid preparation assistance and more to obtain federal, state and local government contracts for small businesses, including disadvantaged, women-owned and veteran-owned firms.
The end of the year can be an emotional time. Frustration with holiday shopping, the joy of spending time with family and friends and reflections on the year past can be just the beginning. My mom always goes around the Thanksgiving table and prompts each of us for what we're grateful for. Sure, it's a little cheesy, but it's about being thankful for what's important in your life.
As a business owner, you are probably most grateful for your customers. They are, after all, the lifeblood of your success.
This time of year is the perfect occasion for thanking those who have stood by us, who allow us to continue to realize our entrepreneurial dreams. And giving holiday gifts to your customers is the perfect way to show your appreciation. In fact, this is really an investment in your company. A thoughtful gift can build loyalty with your customers and ensure repeat business.
First, though, check with your customers to see if they have any limitations on receiving gifts. See the IRS website for rules on gift-giving (IRS Publication 463).
Dozens of federal tax breaks will end December 31 unless Congress extends them. No one knows for sure which ones, if any, will apply next year, so small business owners should explore and take advantage of them while they still can:
Faster write-offs for buying equipment.
Need to upgrade your computers? Provide staff with tablets and smartphones? Add new machinery? You have two better ways to deduct your costs this year than merely depreciating the costs over a number of years:
- Deduct up to $500,000 of the cost of qualified equipment (whether new or pre-owned) this year as long as you're profitable. Next year, the deduction limit is scheduled to be just $25,000.
- Deduct 50 percent of the cost of new qualified equipment, even if it adds to or creates a business loss. Next year, this deduction is set to disappear entirely.
The MO SBTDC and MO PTAC offer a variety of outstanding educational opportunities throughout the year. Here are highlights of upcoming events.
The UMKC and Northwest Missouri State University SBTDC, KCSourceLink, Washington University, Kauffman Foundation and many others have partnered with the Global Entrepreneurship Week movement to host programs and seminars for entrepreneurs Nov. 18-24.
The Northwest SBTDC events include a networking breakfast, sessions on writing a business plan and what the Affordable Care means for you. For more information or to register for these NMSU events, contact Mark Hornickel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 660-562-1704.
For events in your area see us.unleashingideas.org/states/missouri.
1 Million Cups, the weekly entrepreneurial presentation, brainstorming and networking session, takes place every Wednesday from 9-10 a.m. at:
- KETC, 3655 Olive Street (corner of Spring), St. Louis;
- the Kauffman Foundation, 4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City;
- and REDI, 500 East Walnut, Columbia.
See who's presenting this week at 1millioncups.com. Free to all.
Small Business Saturday falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping time of the year. First observed in 2010, it's a small business counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, dedicated to big-box retailers and e-commerce, respectively. Get the word out by telling customers, suppliers, friends and family about Small Business Saturday; go to the Facebook page or the Shop Small Twitter feed (hashtags #smallbusinesssaturday and #smallbizsaturday) for tips on how to differentiate yourself from mega-stores, throw a memorable event, receive an activation kit and much, much more.
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Commercial Service and World Trade Center Kansas City are proud to present an intensive one-day program on protecting your intellectual property (IP) in an increasingly global marketplace on Thursday, Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. in the Board Room, Union Station, 30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City. The seminar will help you identify and protect your IP assets — patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyright; develop a comprehensive strategy for protecting your IP assets from theft abroad or on the internet; and marshal the many government and other resources to protect your IP and expand your exports. The program will be moderated by Susan Anthony, Global Intellectual Property Academy, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Cost is $125 and registration deadline is November 25. Get details and register online.
New Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants were recently announced in eight different fields, largely clean energy. Interested businesses must file a letter of intent by December 16 for a grant. Application deadline is February 4, 2014. Minority- and woman-owned small businesses are particularly encouraged to apply.
Application deadline for the Global Market Access Program, an up to $12,000 cost-sharing program to get Missouri small businesses into international trade shows, missions and events, is December 31. The program is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Applicants must already be exporters. Learn more.
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America's Small Business Development Centers
Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
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