SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Credit unions may not really know how many growth opportunities are available under President-elect Barack Obama's proposal to aid small businesses.That's the sentiment coming from Kent Moon, president/CEO of Member Business Lending LLC, a CUSO ranked as the Small Business Administration's largest credit union lender in the country. Reacting to an article on Obama's plan that ran in the Nov. 19 issue of Credit Union Times, Moon said while a national network of public and private business incubators is an important piece, other key components are just as valuable, if not more."My grandfather was a train engine mechanic. He used to say sometimes people work on the whistle when they should be working on the engine," Moon said. "The incubator program is just the whistle."There are several proposals under Obama's 12-point plan that may lead to inroads for credit unions to expand their small business lending niche, and the timing of Obama's plan for small businesses could not be better, Moon said."We have the right plan being implemented at the right time. Credit unions should be prepared to take action. With this new opportunity, I would like to see credit unions come in and serve the underserved market."Obama's plan is split into four areas to bolster small businesses: cost reductions, access to capital, innovation and development, and assistance for the socially and economically disadvantaged. Moon said by far, being able to provide affordable health care costs to employees ranks among the perennial problems small business owners face.Obama's plan also calls for the elimination of all capital gains taxes on start-ups and small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation. A $500 tax credit would also be available to reduce both the employee and employer side of the payroll tax. Moon said he would like Obama to go even further by streamlining the tax code, which, he said, has become increasingly expensive for small business owners.Moon is optimistic about Obama's measures to eliminate lender fees and reduce costs for small businesses to have more access to capital."Historically, SBA's premier program, the 7(a) program, has virtually quadrupled every seven to eight years," Moon said. "Under the Bush administration, the program has been static, has not grown, in fact, it has gone down."Obama might want to also consider focusing on reducing the complexity of government-guaranteed loans, which is a barrier to entry for many smaller credit unions, Moon suggested. While the SBA has shown some improvements with lender oversight, the former SBA district director said there's still more room for change including better quality loans and the government stepping up regulatory efforts.Two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday, the SBA proposed several changes to its loan program to help credit unions and other lenders increase access to capital for small businesses. Among them was an interim final rule allowing new SBA loans to be made with an alternative base interest rate, the one-month Libor. This would be permitted in addition to the prime rate, which was previously allowed. The agency also said a new structure aims to assemble SBA loans into pools for sale in the secondary market. Moon is optimistic about both of the changes."This is an unprecedented, very strong move. I predict by the end of 2009 that the secondary market will be strong. There are a lot of credit unions that have high liquidity."Back to Obama's incubator network plan. Obama has proposed annually investing $250 million to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged communities throughout the country. "I think it's a noble objective but it will be a continuing challenge," Moon said. "One of the challenges in low-tech and no-tech [businesses] is they just don't grow fast enough to sustain job creation." –[email protected]

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