The biggest small business stories of 2012


Before turning our attention to 2013, we take one more look back at the big small business stories from the past year. (J. David Ake/AP)
December 31, 2012

During a year when economic policy took center stage in Washington, small businesses found themselves in the national spotlight for much of 2012.

Many of the most memorable moments took place during the race for the White House and the build up to the fiscal cliff, as political rivals engaged in relentless and often bitter disputes over the best policies for businesses on Main Street. Months earlier, the same two sides sparred over health care reform, turning the nation’s attention to the likely impact of an employer mandate and small business tax breaks.

GALLERY: The best small businesses to start in 2013

But the year wasn’t completely tarnished by partisan bickering, as lawmakers came together in the spring to pass a potentially game-changing measure to help entrepreneurs raise capital and find new investors.

So before we turn the page to 2013, we took one more look back at the biggest small business stories of 2012.

10. SBA program bites the dust

Congress let the Small Business Administration’s popular 504 refinancing program, which helped business owners refinance debt through a low-cost, government-backed loan structure, expire in September, leaving small employers with one less resource at a time when many firms were struggling to stay afloat.

9. Start-up hunt expands

Startup America, a public-private initiative to grow the number of high-growth firms across the country, started launching regional chapters in 2011 and rapidly expanded in 2012, including the launch of an outpost in the nation’s capital in January.

8. Contracting woes continue

The federal government missed its stated small business contracting goals for the eleventh consecutive year in 2012, falling even shorter than it did the year prior. Meanwhile, misdirected small contracts were among a laundry list of misconduct claims brought against the General Services Administration in Las Vegas.

7. Ex-Im extended

Back in May, lawmakers and the president teamed up to reauthorize for three years the Export-Import Bank, which provides low-rate loans to U.S. exporters to help them expand their customer bases overseas. Leaders also raised the bank’s financing limit from $100 billion to $140 billion.

6. Mills takes a seat

Just weeks into the new year, President Obama elevated the head of the SBA, Administrator Karen Mills, to cabinet-level status as part of a broad agency restructuring proposal. Mills is expected to remain in the position for the president’s second term.

5. Mother Nature wreaks havoc

A historic drought plagued small farmers throughout the midwest this summer, costing the economy in the neighborhood of $50 billion. Then in October, Superstorm Sandy hurled up the East Coast and left billions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses in its wake, though it created business opportunities for some.

4. Bernanke goes bold

The Federal Reserve launched a third round of quantitative easing this fall and surprised economists by pledging to keep rates low even if the economy started to recover. More recently, Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the bank won’t change course until the economy hits unemployment or inflation targets.

3. The presidential spotlight

In their debates, stump speechs and campaign ads, President Obama and Mitt Romney consistently made small business a big part of the race for the White House. Obama survived both his “you didn’t build that” remark and relentless attacks over corporate taxes and rising health care costs to win reelection.

2. Obamacare full steam ahead

Though a great deal of uncertainty remains heading into 2013, one of small business owners’ most pressing questions was answered in June, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the president’s health care reform law by a 5-4 margin. The legislation’s fate was later confirmed by the president’s victory in November.

1. The dawn of crowdfunding

In an all-too-rare act of bipartisanship in 2012, policy makers came together to pass the JOBS Act in April, which eases the regulatory process for firms raising capital by authorizing the use of new online equity crowdfunding platforms. However, entrepreneurs will have to wait a little longer before taking advantage of the law’s provisions, as regulators won’t likely issue rules to govern the new platforms until deep into 2013.

Did we miss any small business stories? Share your list in the comments.

GALLERY: The biggest business stories on the year

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J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he manages the Post's On Small Business blog.
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