I am always amazed by the political leadership and media pundits that proliferate doom and gloom during economic contractions. Let’s face facts. Economic contractions are part of the free and open market system we all enjoy. I have lived through 10 economic contractions during my lifetime, and as far as I can tell, each contraction weeded out inefficient companies and rewarded the bold. The accompanying table illustrates the economic contractions since World War II.Notice that the average contraction lasts for about 11 months and that the average expansion period lasts for 57 months. In fact, two of the expansion periods were in excess of 100 months (February 1961 to December 1969 equals 106 months and March 1991 to March 2001 equals 120 months). It is also interesting to note that there were economic contractions in every presidential administration since 1948, except Kennedy and Clinton.In 1953, one of the first actions of the new Eisenhower administration was to create the Small Business Administration by consolidating two federal agencies created by previous Democratic administrations, the Reconstruction Finance Corp. and the Small War Plants Corp. The mission of the new agency was to “aid, assist, counsel and protect American small business in the interest of national security.” Approximately 98% of all American businesses are small business, based upon the government’s own size standards. The new agency was viewed as a counterbalance resource for national economic downturns. A cursory review of the SBA’s historical lending volumes validates this point (see table).Notice that SBA lending volume has increased in every economic contraction since 1969, with the exception of the 1981 economic contraction. The 1981 downturn was the most severe.Since the Reagan administration, the country has gone through an economic expansion of free market growth and development. However, the debate over free markets, supply-side economics and deregulation has reached a turning point. Does the economy need referees like in a football game to ensure fair play? It appears that the American public rendered its decision. America has indicted Wall Street and the banking industry for exploiting the deregulation environment. They have elected Barack Obama as president and a near filibuster-proof Senate. With the new Obama administration, it is anticipated that there will be more reliance on government action and overview. This will likely result in more government funded programs and more government regulation. It is widely anticipated that SBA lending will dramatically increase in this environment. In fact, over the next four years, I anticipate that the SBA 7a loan program will increase from the current $12 billion dollars to over $30 billion by 2012.What does this mean for the credit union industry? First, it means that business services and business lending represent an incredible credit union growth opportunity. Second, credit unions must develop member business product lines to serve small businesses that banks have historically and substantially ignored. Third, timing is everything. Credit unions that move now to acquire the necessary staff or CUSO resources will be the ones that benefit most from the upcoming expansion of government guaranteed loan programs.With the 2008 presidential election, the economic earth has once again moved beneath our feet. With such movement comes great change. And with great change, comes great opportunity. I believe this is especially true for the credit union industry. The yellow brick road that lies before us is bright. Like Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man, we cannot stumble through the economic dark forest whining and whimpering about “lions, tigers and bears.” We have to take action, move aggressively forward and follow the yellow brick road to economic growth and prosperity.