Community lenders get a mini bailout

Timothy Geithner It’s considerably less than the multi-billion bailout the commercial banking sector received as part of President Obama’s Recovery Act legislation, but battered community banking institutions will gladly take it.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner pledged $90 million to help 59 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in 26 states and Puerto Rico. CDFIs help companies, including many small businesses, in economically distressed urban, rural, and Native communities.

Geithner’s announcement comes on the heels of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech that called for help for CDFIs at the Global Financial Literacy Summit in Washington, DC two weeks prior. Bernanke said, “while community development is a small part of our overall capital and credit markets, the Federal Reserve recognizes that these financial flows are critically important for many low- and moderate-income communities.”

In making his own announcement on CDFIs, Geithner said the increased funding “will help generate capital for small businesses, mortgage loans for homebuyers, and funding for affordable housing projects and other facilities in communities across the country.”

According to a forthcoming CDFI Data Project (“Providing Capital, Building Communities, Creating Impact – Fiscal Year 2007″) there are more than 1,000 CDFIs in the U.S., with a collective $25 billion in assets.

Starbucks and small business

The popularly-held belief that Starbucks kills mom-and-pop shops is a fallacy, says Temple University history professor Bryant Simon.

“In fact, Starbucks created the market for the small coffee shop,” says Bryant, whose new book “Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks” is due to be released in October.

Simon argues that 20 years ago you couldn’t find a “good” cup of coffee anywhere, until Starbucks came along and “created a desire and a taste for specialty coffee” that eventually gave birth to the corner specialty coffee shop.

Betting the farm on your customers

Organic dairy farmer Dante Hesse is hoping the customers who lap up his milk by the quart at local New York farmers’ markets will also invest in his future.

What started as a series of “low key” one-on-one conversations with customers at local farmers’ markets near his Ghent, New York farm, has escalated into a serious attempt to raise $850,000 – in as little as $1,000 increments – directly from his dairy-loving consumers.

“I learned pretty quickly that there was a lot of interest, but I also needed to find some council who could tell me how to do this legally,” said Hesse, who founded Milk Thistle organic dairy farm with his wife, Kristin, three years ago. He intends to use the bulk of the money to build an onsite processing plant that will help him ramp up production and diversify into making other milk-based products like yogurt, butter and ice cream.

VCs more risk averse as recession bites: survey

calculatorIt’s no secret that venture capital firms are tightening their belts in order to weather the current economic downturn, but a new survey depicts a larger realignment at work in the industry.

This year’s Global Venture Capital Survey, a joint report produced by Deloitte and national venture capital associations around the world, shows that in addition to reducing their overall investments during the past year, VC firms have also shifted their efforts to focus on later-stage investments.

According to the report, more VCs may be avoiding early-stage investments because acquisitions now take longer to finalize and IPOs are few and far between in the current economic climate. This means it can be tough for VC firms to plot a quick exit strategy.

Google service helps small businesses

Web-challenged small business owners, take note. Google unfurled the latest in its long line of freebie services last week, this time offering a so-called “dashboard” aimed squarely at local businesses suffering from a weak online presence and lack of web know-how.

The new service gives business owners a simple, if limited, way to track information about their customers. Drawing on its map and search data, Google produces metrics such as what zip code your customers are coming from and what words they’re searching for to find your business. Owners can use such information to help them make business decisions on, say, where to open up a second store or how to fine-tune the products or services they offer.

Google will likely use the information provided by small business owners to try to sell ads to them, but, still, the service is a novel idea that’s bound to appeal to many small companies, particularly those looking to expand locally.

SBA announces new ARC loan guidelines

Today the U.S. Small Business Administration announced new lender guidelines for the America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) loan program it unveiled last month.

According to the SBA release, the ARC program provides emergency funds, in the forms of deferred loans, of up to $35,000 to “viable small businesses suffering immediate financial hardship.” These loans are not provided directly by the SBA, but through SBA-backed lenders – mostly smaller or community banks – and are 100 percent guaranteed by the government and have no lender fees attached.

The SBA defines a “viable” business as an “established, for-profit business with evidence of profitability or positive cash flow in at least one of the past two years.” The term “immediate financial hardship” is subsequently defined by the SBA as “evidence to show a change in the financial condition such as declining sales, frozen credit lines, difficulty meeting payroll, paying rent, difficulty making loan payments or perhaps something else.”

Competing for buzz and cash: Startup 2009 conference

It’s too late to get tickets for today’s Startup 2009 conference in NYC, but you almost don’t even need to be there. Event co-host Silicon Alley Insider, a NYC tech blog, is streaming the entire conference via live video now (watch below) and attendees inside are busy giving a blow-by-blow on Twitter.

The one-day conference features interviews with seasoned entrepreneurs and presentations by 10 emerging online companies carefully chosen by a panel of venture capital judges to compete for “bragging rights, buzz, and a $50,000 prize.” Here are the companies in the running: Advanced Marketing and Media Group, Adzoomi, Article One Partners, BeliefNetworks, Expensify, GlobeFunder Ventures, Good Health Advertising, Micronotes, Path 101, and Portfolio Monkey.

Update: Article One Partners, a startup that helps company’s establish patents or fight already existing ones, took the prize at Startup 2009.  Watch an interview with the company’s founder Cheryl Milone moments after the win (via The Deal).

Young entrepreneurs to watch in the tech sector

Bill Gates was 19 when he came up with the idea for Microsoft. Michael Dell was the same age when he started selling computers out of his dorm room. Who are the teenagers and 20-somethings trying to hatch the big tech and media ideas of tomorrow?

paidContent.org has compiled a list of likely candidates under the age of 21, from web design impresarios to “pimp my MySpace” tycoons.  Taking advantage of the Web’s low barriers to entry means that you often only need a really good idea. catherinecook_woCatherine Cook

Age: 19
Company: myYearbook

Some great ideas come from analysis and introspection. For siblings Catherine and David Cook, it was the result of a snarky comment. “My brother David and I were flipping through our high-school yearbook during my freshman year,” Catherine recalls. “We were looking for a girl in his class—I think he liked her—and he was trying to show me who she was. Once we finally got to the picture he was like, ‘She looks nothing like that.’”

Idaho GM dealership survives cuts

This is part of a series of personal accounts about small business and the recession. The writers are contributors to Associated Content.

by Shirley Thagard

The president of a northern Idaho Chevrolet dealership said she’s not particularly nervous about the closing of almost 1,200 General Motors dealerships.

That’s because Eve Knudtsen, the third-generation president of the family-owned Knudtsen Chevrolet in Post Falls, Idaho, did not receive notice from GM on Monday morning that her dealership would be on the automaker’s list of closures.

Chrysler dealership meant more than new cars to Arizona family

This is part of a series of personal accounts about small business and the recession. The writers are contributors to Associated Content.

by Jared Huggins

As I drive my new Chrysler 300 south on Alma School Road in Mesa, Ariz., I can’t help but feel a bit melancholy. Darner Chrysler Jeep, the 45-year-old Mesa-based business where I bought my new wheels, is among nearly 800 Chrysler dealerships across the country closing its doors.

I grew up less than two miles from Darner, one of Arizona’s oldest dealerships. My father bought his first new car, a 1968 Chrysler Newport, from Darner. The pearl white Newport was not so much a family car as it was a way to find women, dad told me. It was enough to catch the eye of my mother.