In one of his last acts as governor, Tom Vilsack will ask legislators in January to pump $4 million more state taxdollars into state efforts to help small businesses owned by minorities, women and the disabled.
If Vilsack gets his wish, the money would be used on a state program that links mentors for start-up small business owners as well as small grants to “targeted” small businesses. According to Vilsack, there are 77,000 small businesses in Iowa owned by minorities, women or the disabled — and those businesses account for over $8 billion in economic activity each year. “This is a big deal,” Vilsack says.
Some of the $4 million in state taxdollars Vilsack wants set-aside for small business development would be used to hire state workers who would help small, start-up businesses develop business plans and find financial backing.
State Senator Pat Ward of West Des Moines was a member of a task force Vilsack assembled to study the issue. “As a Republican I sometimes cringe at the thought of programs that are simply hand-outs,” Ward says. “…I believe this program is not a hand-out. It’s a hand-up.”
Representative Wayne Ford, a Democrat from Des Moines, asked the governor to tackle the issue. Ford says “targeted small businesses” in Iowa run the “whole gamut” from those owned by women to those owned by Native Americans, blacks and the disabled.
According to the governor, women own 70,000 small businesses in Iowa. Iowa law requires six percent of state government purchases to be made from small businesses owned by a minority or a woman.