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7/7/2018
Senator gauges US agency's work with small businesses

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A U.S. senator from Idaho held a recent hearing in Anchorage to get feedback from Alaska business leaders on Small Business Administration programs.

Republican Sen. Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, wanted to gather insight into how and if the programs are helping businesses navigate the system for federal contracts, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported .

Federal contracts for Alaska small businesses grew by more than $200 million last year, Risch said. The administration helped U.S. small businesses get for more than $105 billion in total federal work last year.

Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski joined Risch last week. Though they are not on the committee, Risch said he deferred to them because of their familiarity with issues that the state's businesses face.

"The key, whether it's the U.S. economy, or the Alaska economy, is small-business growth," Sullivan said.

Representatives from Alaska Native corporations and professional trade businesses told the senators that federal regulations often make it difficult for the Small Business Administration to help small businesses efficiently.

The agency is working to ease regulatory challenges, although specific requirements can vary among programs, said Robb Wong, associate administrator for government contracting.

Compliance work burdens the agency's business opportunity specialists, who work directly with businesses, Wong said. It aims to hire more specialists and build a new website to help business owners, he said.