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Economic Development and Small Business

Economic development and small business programs, if effective, can contribute to the nation’s economic growth. However, federal programs are fragmented and many agencies do not track program information or conduct program evaluations. As a result, the government’s ability to provide effective services is unclear.

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  • Federal efforts to support entrepreneurs are fragmented—including among 52 programs we reviewed at the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Small Business Administration (SBA). Without enhanced collaboration and coordination agencies may not be able to make use of limited federal resources in the most effective and efficient manner.
  • In addition, agencies generally do not track program information on entrepreneurial assistance activities for many programs. A number of programs have not met their performance goals and most programs lack evaluations. We reported in August 2012 that more than 19 of the 52 programs we reviewed failed to meet their annual performance goals related to entrepreneurial assistance, including USDA’s Rural Business Opportunity Grants, Commerce’s Economic Development/Support for Planning Organizations, HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grants, and SBA’s 504 loans to finance commercial real estate.
  • Programs could potentially rely on results from program evaluations to determine the reasons why they have not met their goals, as well as to gauge overall effectiveness. However, the agencies lack program evaluations for more than half of the 52 programs we reviewed.
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SBA's Promotion of US ExportsFriday, March 1, 2013
  • portrait of William B. Shear
    • William B. Shear
    • Director, Financial Markets and Community Investment
    • shearw@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-8678