Thursday, November 29, 2012
Robert Jay Dilger
Senior Specialist in American National Government
The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program is designed to enhance small business access to venture capital by stimulating and supplementing “the flow of private equity capital and long term loan funds which small business concerns need for the sound financing of their business operations and for their growth, expansion, and modernization, and which are not available in adequate supply.” Facilitating the flow of capital to small businesses to stimulate the national economy was, and remains, the SBIC program’s primary objective.
At the end of FY2012, there were 301 privately owned and managed SBICs licensed by the SBA participating in the SBIC program, providing financing to small businesses with private capital the SBIC has raised (called regulatory capital) and funds the SBIC borrows at favorable rates (called leverage) because the SBA guarantees the debenture (loan obligation). SBICs pursue investments in a broad range of industries, geographic areas, and stages of investment. Some SBICs specialize in a particular field or industry, while others invest more generally. Most SBICs concentrate on a particular stage of investment (i.e., startup, expansion, or turnaround) and geographic area.
The SBA is authorized to provide up to $3 billion in leverage to SBICs annually. The SBIC program has invested or committed about $18.2 billion in small businesses, with the SBA’s share of capital at risk about $8.8 billion. In FY2012, the SBA committed to guarantee $1.9 billion in SBIC small business investments, and SBICs provided another $1.3 billion in investments from private capital, for a total of more than $3.2 billion in financing for 1,094 small businesses.
Some Members of Congress, the Obama Administration, and small business advocates have argued that the SBIC program should be expanded as a means to stimulate economic activity, create jobs, and assist in the national economic recovery. For example, several bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress to expand the program. For example, S. 3442, the SUCCESS Act of 2012, and S. 3572, the Restoring Tax and Regulatory Certainty to Small Businesses Act of 2012, would, among other provisions, increase the program’s authorization amount to $4 billion from $3 billion, increase the program’s family of funds limit (the amount of outstanding leverage allowed for two or more SBIC licenses under common control) to $350 million from $225 million, and annually adjust the maximum outstanding leverage amount available to both individual SBICs and SBICs under common control to account for inflation. Also, H.R. 6504, the Small Business Investment Company Modernization Act of 2012, would increase the program’s family of funds limit (the amount of outstanding leverage allowed for two or more SBIC licenses under common control) to $350 million from $225 million.
Others worry about the potential risk an expanded SBIC program has for increasing the federal deficit. In their view, the best means to assist small business, promote economic growth, and create jobs is to reduce business taxes and exercise federal fiscal restraint.
Some Members and small business advocates have also proposed that the program target additional assistance to startup and early stage small businesses, which are generally viewed as relatively risky investments but also as having a relatively high potential for job creation. In an effort to target additional assistance to newer businesses, the SBA has established, as part of the Obama Administration’s Startup America Initiative, a $1 billion early stage debenture SBIC initiative (up to $150 million in leverage in FY2012, and up to $200 million in leverage per fiscal
year thereafter until the limit is reached). Early stage debenture SBICs are required to invest at least 50% of their investments in early stage small businesses, defined as small businesses that have never achieved positive cash flow from operations in any fiscal year.
This report describes the SBIC program’s structure and operations, including two recent SBA initiatives, one targeting early stage small businesses and one targeting underserved markets. It also examines several legislative proposals to increase the leverage available to SBICs and to increase the SBIC program’s authorization amount to $4 billion.
Date of Report: November 20, 2012
Number of Pages: 41
Order Number: R41456
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