Get Started: SBA loans, entrepreneur competition

NEW YORK (AP) — SENATORS SEEK SBA LOAN EXTENSION

Leaders of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship have introduced a bill that would allow company owners to refinance some mortgages with government-backed loans.

Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., are seeking a five-year extension of a law that allowed small business owners to use Small Business Administration 504 loans to refinance certain types of mortgages. The law, the Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development Act, or CREED, was part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, but wasn't fully implemented until February 2012 and expired on Sept. 27, 2012.

The 504 loan program provides small businesses with long-term fixed-rate loans to buy fixed assets like real estate, buildings and equipment. The CREED Act allowed owners to refinance older loans so small businesses could take advantage of current low interest rates and reduce their monthly payments. The idea behind the change, and the bill introduced by Landrieu and Shaheen, is to improve small companies' cash flow in the hopes that it will enable them to hire more workers.

You can find information about 504 loans on the SBA website: www.sba.gov/content/cdc504-loan-program

ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONTEST

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity, a group that provides advice and support for entrepreneurs, is holding a competition for owners of microbusinesses — those with 20 or fewer workers. The 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are open to all U.S. residents. They were previously known as the Power of One Awards.

There are two cash awards for businesses. Companies with fewer than five employees can compete for a $15,000 prize. They will be judged primarily on their performance and the impact of their companies on their families and communities.

Those with more than five and up to 20 workers can compete for a $25,000 award. They will be judged primarily on their potential for growth, their companies' financial performance, employment track record and other contributions to the local economies.

The deadline for applications is March 15. For more information go to: www.aeoawards.com

A separate competition will give awards to nonprofit organizations that provide financing to microbusinesses operating in, or serving, a low-income neighborhood, or that provide innovate services to low-income entrepreneurs. There is a $75,000 award for each type of organization.

The 2012 business winners included Ward Computer Services, a technology consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, and Bay Area Medical Academy, a San Jose, Calif., school that offers courses for medical assistants, electrocardiogram technicians, medical billers and other health care-related jobs.

The nonprofits that won last year were Accion New Mexico-Arizona-Colorado, which helps small businesses in those states with financing, and Credit Builders Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based group that provides services to non-traditional financial institutions that serve low- and moderate-income people.

The award program was founded by Citi Foundation, an arm of Citibank that works with nonprofit organizations and public agencies to help individuals and families have greater access to financial products and services. It also collaborates with groups like Association for Enterprise Opportunity, which aim to help small businesses.

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