- Business Intel: Deadline coming up for Small Business Award nominations - Roanoke Times
- Linda McMahon To Quit Top Post At Small Business Administration - NPR
- Trump's small-business health insurance plan is struck down - CNBC
- Let's talk about what it actually means to be a small business - DefenseNews.com
Posted: 30 Mar 2019 09:00 PM PDT
The 33rd annual Small Business Awards gala is scheduled for this fall, but the deadline for nominations is coming up next month.
The event from the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce recognizes small businesses, nonprofits and veteran-owned businesses. Last year, F&S Building Innovations Inc. took home the top prize for small business of the year.
New this year, all nominees will be recognized in print in the Small Business Awards program, but only the top three finalists in each category will be included in the video presentation. Companies and nonprofits that have won a category in the past three years are not eligible to compete in 2019. To nominate a small business for an award in one of the 10 categories, visit roanokechamber.org/events/small-business-awards/.
The deadline for nominees is April 25. The event is Oct. 1, and tickets will go on sale later this year.
Posted: 29 Mar 2019 01:02 PM PDT
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Updated at 4:44 p.m. ET
Linda McMahon, the famous pro wrestling promoter who stayed largely out of the limelight as small business administrator, is quitting President Trump's Cabinet after more than two years on the job.
McMahon plans to join the pro-Trump superPAC America First Action, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
"Linda McMahon has done an incredible job," Trump told reporters Friday at his Florida vacation home. "She has been a superstar."
A multimillionaire, McMahon contributed heavily to Trump's 2016 election effort. At America First Action, she could play a significant role in the president's 2020 bid for re-election.
"We're staying together," Trump said.
Along with her husband Vince, McMahon ran the hugely successful World Wrestling Entertainment company, negotiating television rights and merchandising contracts. She twice ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from her home state of Connecticut.
At the SBA, McMahon has proven to be a workhorse, traveling the country to promote small business and the president's economic agenda while avoiding the scandals that have plagued several of her Cabinet colleagues.
"The opportunity to lead the agency in supporting America's small businesses has been immensely rewarding," McMahon said in a statement. She pointed to surveys showing high levels of optimism among the country's small business owners.
"They are investing in their companies and their employees — raising wages, providing bonuses and benefits, and creating more jobs," McMahon said.
Her resignation will take effect on April 12. Trump said he would announce a nominee to replace McMahon in the near future.
"I wish to thank the President and I will continue to be a strong advocate for him and his policies," McMahon said.
Trump has proposed cutting the SBA's budget next year by 5 percent.
White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe contributed to this report.
Posted: 29 Mar 2019 04:36 AM PDT
A federal judge has struck down a small-business health insurance plan widely touted by President Donald Trump, marking the second setback in a week for the administration's health care initiatives.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates wrote in his opinion late Thursday that so-called "association health plans" were "clearly an end-run" around consumer protections required by the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
On Wednesday, another federal judge blocked the Trump administration's Medicaid work requirements for low-income people.
The plans at issue in Bates' ruling Thursday allow groups of small businesses and sole proprietors to band together to offer lower-cost coverage that doesn't have to include all the benefits required by the ACA, often called "Obamacare." They also can be offered across state lines, an attempt to deliver on a major Trump campaign promise.
Trump has eagerly talked up the plans, saying they're doing record business by offering "tremendous health care at very small cost." But the Labor Department regulation authorizing them only took effect last summer, and they don't seem to have made a major impact on the market. Initial estimates said 3 million to 4 million people eventually would enroll, compared with more than 160 million Americans covered by current employer plans.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who joined other Democratic state officials in suing the Trump administration, said the judge "saw past the Trump administration's transparent effort to sabotage our health care system and gut these critical consumer protections in the service of its own partisan agenda."
Many state officials see federal insurance regulation of small-business plans as infringing on their own traditional authority.
The Trump administration, unable to repeal "Obamacare" in Congress, has tried to use its rule-making powers to open up a pathway for alternatives. In the case of small-business plans, the administration's regulation granted them similar flexibility on benefits as enjoyed by big companies. Most large employer plans are not subject to state regulations, and the Obama law did not make major changes to them either.
Posted: 29 Mar 2019 12:41 PM PDT
How should Pentagon leaders define a small business? On its surface, that seems easy to do, particularly if you acknowledge there are a couple of flavors – those with a modest workforce versus those with low revenue.
But if you caught Trae Stephens' Twitter storm earlier this week, you would have discovered that the definition of a small business should require more thought. And that all the talk coming out of the Department of Defense adds up mostly to what he calls "innovation theater."
"There is a huge difference between a low-growth/low-headcount business and a high-growth/product-focused tech startup," the co-counder of Anduril tweeted. "We need to stop lumping these together."
His comments came in response to Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, who expressed concern recently with the ability of innovative small businesses to secure their systems. To Stephens point, small doesn't mean less savvy. Not if they truly are innovative.
And the distinction for him goes even further. True innovative small businesses, he argued on Twitter and during a roundtable Defense News hosted in California last year, should demonstrate promise to become large businesses eventually. (During that roundtable several said the goal for the Pentagon should be to foster the next General Atomics).
Stephens pointed to the Air Force pitch day to prove his point that DoD is just not concerned with that kind of future growth potential. His analysis of the companies selected during that event, which essentially was like speed dating for contract awards, where companies could land funds through the Small Business Innovation Research program in as little as three minutes, showed that more than 50 percent had no venture funding of any kind. That's a bad sign, Stephens said, since venture capitalists back the companies with the greatest potential for growth. In addition, most contracts were for cyber and services – not product development. Not to diminish the importance of cyber and services, but were those contracts breaking new ground? The work could probably be performed by any number of companies.
Also, there were three times as many companies from Northern Virginia than California and almost half were founded more than 10 years ago – not exactly the definition of a "Silicon Valley startup." Now, innovation is not isolated to California, but it appears the winners here follow a pretty standard playbook for Pentagon small business contractors in both the scope of work and the makeup of the businesses.
What else? Contracts awarded were not recurring and averaged less than $100,000. Meaning, they will do little to ensure these companies have a trajectory to grow and really make some noise.
I reached out to Stephens to play devil's advocate. Were venture-backed companies even at pitch day I asked him? Yes, he said. Without revealing company names, he said there were some strong venture-backed companies that did not get selected, "presumably because they didn't play the inside game with hiring SBIR advisers and the like or weren't known commodities in the source selection committees."
He also said that "some non-zero part of this" is that high-growth companies are not targeting SBIR opportunities either. They don't see them as beneficial, much in the same way that venture capital firms don't.
I also questioned his theory that growth should always be the ultimate end game. Does the Pentagon always need another Palantir or SpaceX, or could 10 Silicon Valley developers in a room churning out algorithms to solve specific problems be a gamechanger? Wouldn't that allow some of these startups to support the Pentagon without necessarily having to go all in on military as a market?
He agreed there's a sweet spot in terms of contracts. If it's too small, then little of consequence happens for the companies or the Pentagon. If it's more than $10 million, then everything gets protested and killed by the primes, he said, pointing tocompanies like Capella Space, Improbable, and yes – Palantir as examples.
As for that "dual use" approach that so many are claiming is the future of technology, "It's great that some commercially-focused businesses are interested in selling to the DoD, but there are also a lot of DoD-specific challenges that would be best served by new defense-focused tech companies." Stephens himself is a partner at venture Founders Fund.
If this all sounds complicated, it doesn't have to be. And Stephens isn't trying to sound pessimistic or down on these grand efforts to unite the Pentagon and the tech community. (Nor am I.) But "innovation theater" won't do it.
"The department needs to pick winners, with meaningful contracts, and give them access to the mission," Stephens said. "There's nothing specifically preventing them from doing that. They just don't do it."
And the Air Force's pitch day was no exception.
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