November 9, 2009 / 9:27 PM / 10 years ago

Obama plans small business forum

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration has set a November 18 date for a small business forum to define a new initiative to boost lending to smaller firms and help reverse U.S. job losses, an administration official said on Monday.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Administration's plan to help small businesses at the Eisenhower Executive Office building near the White House in Washington, October 29, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The forum will gather business owners, lenders, lawmakers and regulators in a bid to make more credit available to small firms so they can expand again after the recession and curb U.S. unemployment that has swelled above the 10 percent rate.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills will host the meeting to discuss “new ideas and strategies for expanding access to financing for small businesses,” the official said.

President Barack Obama called for the forum last month when he unveiled a new plan to provide low-cost capital to community banks so they can increase lending to small businesses.

In the past 15 years, small businesses have been credited with creating about 65 percent of all new U.S. jobs.

The new initiative would use funds from the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to aid small business lending as it shifts its focus away from now-stabilized larger institutions.

It would also seek legislation to increase the maximum size for popular Small Business Administration loan-guarantee programs to allow for bigger expansion projects and to allow more start-up firms gain financing.

The administration at the time did not indicate a size for the small bank capital program, saying that would be done in consultation with lenders and small businesses. The forum next week is part of the effort to gauge the demand for the program, the administration official said.

Herbert Allison, the Treasury assistant secretary who runs TARP, told Reuters on Thursday the size of the program would be heavily affected by the demand for loans and by the demand for capital from smaller institutions.

“That’s why we are reaching out, to try to better gauge what the demand will be and how the demand might be affected by a few tweaks to the program here and there,” Allison said in an interview.

Details on forum agenda topics and participants were not immediately available but members of Congress with jurisdiction over small business issues will be invited, the official said.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Andrew Hay

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