Small Business California worked hard to get SBA Administrator, Karen Mills to name a person in District 9 [California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam] as the point person in the implementation of the 2007 Energy Act. This bill required the SBA to take the lead in helping small businesses cost effectively reduce their Energy use with part of that being On Bill Financing, which Small Business California brought to California. Elizabeth Echols, the Regional Administrator has been designated as that person and now holds the title of Senior Advisor to the Administrator on Clean Tech and Energy Efficiency initiatives.
This week, Hank Ryan and I have talked to Ms. Echols and District Director, Mark Quinn about how we can move forward. Ms. Echols and Mr. Quinn seemed very interested in moving forward on this, especially given the President's Better Building program. One possibility is implementing On Bill Financing with the 504 loan program and also trying to find ways of working with 7A. This will be an ongoing effort but we are now beginning to move forward.
On the SBIR front, the bill to reauthorize the program has now been passed in the Senate and will go to the President where we expect a signature. This shows what small businesses can accomplish when we work together across the country. Part of what made this happen is that small businesses, both inside and outside the program, spoke up with a unified voice. See below for Rich Scindell’s piece. It’s a little long but well worth reading.
Small Business California
2311 Taraval Street
San Francisco, CA 94116
Dear SBIR Insider,
I am pleased (a gross understatement) to inform you that SBIR HAS NOW BEEN REAUTHORIZED for a period of 6 years, ending September 30, 2017, and that includes STTR, and what was the Commercialization Pilot Program (CPP), now to be known as the Commercialization Readiness Program (CRP). This was all done under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) HR.1540. All that's left is for the President to sign the bill into law, and he has said he would.
There are many changes and additions to these programs, many you will probably like, some, perhaps "not so much. What you won't read in press releases or the main stream press is that the SBIR program was a stone's throw from being laid to rest.
The fatigue factor from several years of battling for reauthorization, and fighting for 14 continuing resolutions led some powerful forces to question the validity of a program that can't be reauthorized. "If it can't be passed, let it die" was the word from one source. And die it would, had there not been serious compromises.
Although reauthorization has passed, your role is not done. It is vital that our SBIR community stay "tuned in" and active because your input will be requested relating to the changes and how the program is working for you. Although we have a six year reauthorization, I can assure you that some SBIR issues will be revisited by congress during this period.
Rather than giving you a laundry list of changes, we are in the process of creating a detailed technical document explaining the new legislation (sans legalese) and how it will most likely effect small business, the agencies, and academia. That will be in our next issue.
The legislation gives the SBA 180 days to implement new policy directives for SBIR and STTR. As those are being developed, public comments will be solicited. We'll let you know about those when they happen. Your input will be critical! The new eligibility regulations must implemented within 120 days.
For those of you who want the bill's language, we have created a PDF of the SBIR legislation from the conference report that was passed. It is 107 pages from the 1844 page NDAA document. You'll find it at www.zyn.com/sbir/insider/SBIR_Pages_from-HR1540conf.pdf
At this point you have "certainty" that the SBIR/STTR programs will continue, but uncertainty as to how the agencies will handle the changes (even the agencies will need to get up to speed on the details).
On the other hand there may very well be another CR if congress is unable to pass the omnibus appropriations bill before they go home for the holidays. The CR would be to keep the agencies funded for a short period (having nothing directly to do with SBIR authorization).
The Real Story of SBIR Reauthorization
Regardless of what you may see in the press about people taking credit for SBIR reauthorization, one person, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, towers over all others. I guarantee you that without Senator Landrieu and her extraordinary efforts in this political climate, SBIR would not have survived.
Jere Glover, SBTC executive director, who has been a keystone in SBIR since its inception and has been an important participant in every SBIR reauthorization, stated : "There has never been a Senator that has done more for the SBIR community, and spent more personal time and personal involvement than Senator Landrieu." On the reauthorization process Glover stated "SBIR reauthorization has always been tough, but never like this."
Landrieu worked closely with her committee's ranking member Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who has been an important supporter of SBIR since the beginning, and several others also played important supporting roles. On the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), and John McCain (R-AZ) made it possible to include SBIR reauthorization language in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
In fact, this morning shortly before passage of the NDAA, Senator Levin stated: "The conference report includes Senator Landieu's bill to extend the small business [innovation] research, the SBIR program for an additional six years. It's been about six years since we reauthorized this vitally important program which provides a huge benefit to our small businesses so that they can effectively participate in research programs that are funded by the federal government. In the defense arena, SBIR has successfully invested in innovate research and technologies that have contributed significantly to the expansion of the defense industrial base in the development of new military capabilities."
On the House side, we have Buck McKeon (R-CA) chair of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), and ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA) to thank. But they needed persuasion and support to do this, and that came from a dedicated SBIR champion, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) who worked hard to get a lot of congressionals and the House leadership on board to support the Senate's bill over the House's (not an easy or politically popular feat). Traditionally there's not a lot of "love" between House and Senate.
HASC may not have been able to include SBIR without the support that Congresswoman Tsongas was able obtain. She is a true SBIR champion, and is very considerate of her constituents, as well as grateful for the support that many of you gave to signing on to the SBTC's SBIR letter to congressional leadership. That made a huge difference!
In a conversation with Ms. Tsongas, I thanked her for all her hard work and dedication to the SBIR program. She said, "Rick, it took a village."
Villages can be quaint but they can also be troublesome. On the Senate side, Landrieu had things under control, but on the House side she ran into some,,, lets say trolls and grouches. SBIR reauthorization was always problematic in the House due to some of the trolls in the form of House Small Business Committee chair Sam Graves (R-MO) and ranking member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and the grouch in the form of House Science Committee chair Ralph Hall (R-TX). They tried to block SBIR inclusion in the NDAA and it was looking bleak for SBIR.
This behavior has been going on for years, and the trolls continued to block SBIR from being reauthorized (unless it was their way). Ms. Landrieu, in what may have been a Howard Beale moment, was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore, went over to the House, and had a talk with these people face-to-face, allegedly in a language they could understand (terminology by Harry Truman).
That, along with your efforts, and those of some other groups in contacting the leadership and other congressionals, helped sway things in a manner we have not seen in the SBIR world. Velazquez backed off, and Graves & Hall finalized a compromise with Landrieu that the Senate and House could live with. Both House & Senate leadership played an important role in getting this done.
In the next issue we will have detailed analysis of the changes to the program and we'll let you know who all the hero's were to help make this possible. There are lots!
Of course none of this would be possible without staff, and one staffer stands out from all the rest. Nobody, be it government or private sector has been more dedicated to SBIR, or has fought harder or longer for you and small businesses, than Ms. Kevin Wheeler. Kevin has been a warrior, and has often times been vilified because she wouldn't cave in to the ridiculous demands of high rolling, high pressure lobbyists, or the House Small Biz and S&T staffers doing their bidding. They did not appreciate Ms. Wheeler's protecting the interests of small business. That's all for now and we can get some rest. Congratulations and thanks to all of you who helped make this happen!
Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Yontif, Festivus and Gafe Gake. We'll be back before the New Year.
40 Alderwood Dr.
Sequim, WA 98382