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Three Reasons You Should Support Small Business

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Three Reasons You Should Support Small Business

Small Business Saturday takes place this Saturday, November 30

Every year, when Small Business Saturday rolls around, Americans are reminded to ‘support small businesses.’ But the need for your support extends far beyond the holiday season.

American small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. In fact, they make up 99.9% of the economy and employ 47.5% of the workforce.

As a small business owner, I’ve built much of my career around serving the incredible community of entrepreneurs who drive innovation and economic progress, locally and nationwide. These men and women are the hidden heroes of our neighborhoods, often putting everything on the line to provide the services and staples that we rely on…not to mention, those which make our communities unique. It is they who pass the torch of the American dream to future generations — all of whom fight to defy conventional wisdom that only half will survive their first 5 years. Make no mistake about it: they depend on your support to hold onto that dream.

Here are three reasons you should support small business, and go out of your way to contribute to Small Business Saturday every day.

Small Business Owners Drive New Jobs

It’s no secret that small businesses create new jobs, fuel economic growth, and contribute to lowering unemployment rates. Even in today’s globalized world, America’s 30.2 million small businesses still make up 99.9% of all businesses in this country, and employ 58.9 million people.

Check out ‘The Best Small Places For Business And Careers’ in Forbes, to see where our city ranks. None of us should be surprised that we have an incredible workforce; we are well below the national unemployment rate; and that most of our 16+ population is in the civilian labor force. There’s no reason not to keep this momentum going and drive more business and more jobs to our area.

Small Businesses Strengthen Communities

It’s not the megastores that give our communities vibrancy; but rather, the mom-and-pop coffee shop that serves a great cup of morning joe, the family-owned pastry shop that’s been a local staple for decades, and the go-to-guy auto mechanic that give our communities personality, and a spot on the map.

Small Business Saturday is a community-centric day, where we have the opportunity to rally around our local small companies that make our lives a little bit better. So long as the community connection created by small businesses remains strong year-round, the benefits of strengthened communities will too.

Small Businesses Empower the Next Generation

Almost all of us got our start at a small business, whether it was helping out the family, as a cashier at the local movie theatre, waiting tables, working in the local bank, or even babysitting! We learned the basic skills and requirements of the workforce: showing up on time, working hard, being accountable, and leading others (and being led). It is still incumbent upon small businesses to perform the vital role of training the next generation and offering them mentorship opportunities and ways to learn professionalism.

 Things have changed a little since my first days as a neighborhood lawn mower in my hometown. Still, today, I scout for great small businesses everywhere I go, which was why I came here. I have found that small-business owners here understand best what it takes to make an area a real community. To me and many others, that’s an important public contribution and one I hope to never live without.

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Vincent Ney is the Founder and President of Expansion Capital Group, a business dedicated to serving American small businesses by providing access to capital and other resources, so they can grow and achieve their definition of success. Since its inception, ECG has connected over 12,000 small businesses nationwide to approximately $350 million in capital.

blockchain

SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED GLOBAL TRADERS ARE BANKING ON BLOCKCHAIN

This is the second in a three-part series by Christine McDaniel for TradeVistas on how blockchain technologies will play an increasing role in international trade.

Give Me Some Credit

Every business requires capital to operate. To sell products to customers overseas, many companies also need trade financing and insurance from third-party lenders. About 80 percent of all global trade is transacted through third-party lenders and cargo insurers, but the process is complex, can be costly and many banks find it too risky to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Blockchain has the potential to increase transparency, speed and accuracy in assessing risk across the trade finance process, which in turn could expand the supply of credit available for international trade transactions – good news especially for SMEs that face significant hurdles accessing credit. Here’s how.

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

Buyers who import goods from sellers in other countries generally want to pay upon receiving the merchandise so they can verify its physical integrity on arrival. Exporters, on the other hand, generally prefer to be paid as soon as they ship the goods. Trade finance can bridge this gap.

Exporters and importers engage third-party lenders and insurers who will guarantee payments on the basis of collateral and indemnify the exporter, importer and related parties in the event that the merchandise is damaged, stolen or lost while in transit. In this way, trade finance provides the credit, payment guarantee and insurance needed to facilitate an international trade transaction on terms that will satisfy all parties.

80% of trade relies on finance

Steps on the Trade Journey

Intermediaries such as freight forwarders typically manage the physical journey of merchandise, from the original producer to the border, across the border (maybe several borders), and to the final buyer.

Each step must be verified: when was the merchandise transported from the factory or farm to a warehouse, when was it moved from the warehouse to a container, when was the container loaded onto a ship, when did the ship get underway, when was the container unloaded from the ship at port, and when was the merchandise transported from the port to the end consumer.

Different trade finance instruments, such as lending, letters of credit, factoring and cargo insurance cover legs of the journey. A letter of credit is a guarantee from a bank that a buyer’s payment will be received and be on time or else the bank will take responsibility for the payment. Factoring is accounts receivable financing to accelerate cash flow. Cargo insurance insures the merchandise while en route.

Without Finance, Trade Would Sink

The World Trade Organization estimates that 80 percent of global trade relies on trade finance or credit insurance. The global trade finance sector (i.e., the global volume of letters of credit) is worth roughly $2.8 trillion. Demand for trade financing exceeds availability, resulting in the underutilization of existing capital. According to the Asian Development Bank, the global trade finance gap — the difference between the demand for and supply of trade finance — has reached $1.6 trillion.

SMEs Face a 50 Percent Rejection Rate

The shortfall in supply reflects the complex and risky nature of trade finance which often involves multiple parties. Before banks will issue letters of credit in trade finance, they require potential customers to present a solid credit history and a strong balance sheet, conditions that tend to favor larger institutions.

SMEs typically experience more difficulty navigating the trade finance process and dealing with the cost and complexity of banking regulations than larger companies. In 2014, SMEs had trade finance requests before financial institutions rejected at a rate of over 50 percent. In comparison, the rejection rate for multinational corporations was only seven percent.

Links in the Trade Finance Chain

According to the United Nations, there are typically eight major steps required to obtain a letter of credit, although in practice the Credit Research Foundation lists more than twenty. Each step of the process is dependent on the previous steps, and some steps involve sending the same document back and forth for verification purposes. The administrative burden is greater for SMEs than for large firms.

survey of 2,350 SMEs and 850 large firms conducted by the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2010 showed that lack of access to credit is the major constraint for SME manufacturing firms seeking to export or expand into new markets and it is one of the top three constraints for SME services firms.

rate of rejection for trade finance

How Blockchain Can Help Ease Trade Finance

Requirements to authenticate each transaction in the trade finance and insurance process can engender large amounts of paperwork and cause delays at each step. Every handoff must be approved and verified.

Instead, blockchain uses digital tokens that are issued by each participant in the supply chain to authenticate the movement of goods. Every time the item changes hands, the token moves in lockstep. The real-world chain of custody is mirrored by a chain of transactions recorded in the blockchain.

The token acts as a virtual “certificate of authenticity” that is much harder to steal, forge or hack than a piece of paper, barcode or digital file. The records can be trusted and greatly improve the information available to assure supply-chain quality.

Using blockchain as a digital ledger for these handoffs would allow involved parties to instantly track and receive secure information about the traded goods. Parties can monitor the entire shipping process and verify the completion of each step in real time. This increased transparency and ease of monitoring reduces the risk that a borrower presents to a potential lender or insurer.

Banking on Blockchain

A number of financial institutions are piloting the use of blockchain-enabled trade finance platforms.

Bank of America, HSBC, and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore collaborated in 2016 to develop a trade finance application designed “to streamline the manual processing of import/export documentation, improve security by reducing errors, increase convenience for all parties through mobile interaction, and make companies’ working capital more predictable.” Using the application, each action in the workflow is captured in a distributed ledger and all parties (the exporter, the importer, and their respective banks) can visualize data in real time, offering transparency to authorized participants while ensuring confidential data is protected through encryption.

Barclays used blockchain in 2017 to issue letter of credit that reportedly guaranteed the export of $100,000 worth of agricultural products from Irish cooperative Ornua to the Seychelles Trading Company, noting the parties were able to execute a deal in four hours that would usually take up to 10 days to complete.

A group of European banks launched a trade finance blockchain platform in July 2018, initially focused on facilitating small and medium-sized businesses trading within Europe. In September 2018, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority announced plans to launch a trade finance blockchain platform. Twenty-one banks are participating in the platform, including large institutions such as HSBC and Standard Chartered. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is also reportedly working with its counterpart in Singapore to develop a blockchain-based trade finance network to settle cross-border transactions.

Lessons for Trade Policymakers

As the trade finance industry begins to utilize blockchain technology, there are some potential implications worthy of policymakers’ attention.

First, the large number of intermediaries and corresponding administrative costs in trade finance tend to fall particularly hard on SMEs and the relatively higher cost of each transaction makes SME financing less attractive to banks. If blockchain can reduce the costs of trade finance, more small and medium-sized businesses could trade globally.

Second, although blockchain technology does not alter the fundamental credit risk of borrowers, the increased transparency and access to information it delivers could improve the accuracy of banks’ risk assessments. If perceived risk is greater than actual risk, a nontrivial number of loan applications may be denied even though those loans have the potential to be successful. If blockchain brings greater confidence and issuance of good loans — that is, those that are paid back — the transactions they support would bring value to the economy.

In these important ways, blockchain can increase transparency across the trade finance process and decrease risk for all parties, in turn expanding the supply of credit available for international trade transactions.

ChristineMcDaniel

 

Christine McDaniel a former senior economist with the White House Council of Economic Advisers and deputy assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

JONES ACT REPEAL WOULD BOOST U.S. ECONOMY: STUDY

A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that repeal of the Jones Act would produce economic gains for the U.S. of up to $64 billion.

The Jones Act mandates that all cargo shipped between U.S. ports be transported on ships built in the U.S. and bearing the U.S. flag, as well as owned and crewed by Americans. But by eliminating foreign competition, the law significantly increases the cost of shipping between American ports, argues LIBRE Initiative President Daniel Garza.

“First signed into law nearly a century ago, the Jones Act raises costs for every American consumer–particularly those in areas that are relatively isolated and which depend heavily on shipborne commerce,” Garza says. “It also hurts the competitiveness of exports, undermining job growth. This study by the OECD shows that not only will repealing this outdated law boost our economy, it will even increase the competitiveness and economic output of the shipbuilding sector–the very industry the law is supposed to be helping.”

Reform would introduce competition that would force a reduction in the cost of U.S.-built ships, potentially leading to an increase in demand of 70 percent–expanding the size of the shipbuilding sector from $841 million to $1.43 billion, states the OECD report. “It’s far past time for Congress to repeal this outdated law,” Garza says. “Doing so will help American consumers and producers. What are we waiting for?”