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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.
Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Export Promotion:

Small Business Administration Needs to Improve Collaboration to Implement Its Expanded Role
GAO-13-217:
Published: Jan 30, 2013. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2013.

Veteran-Owned Small Businesses:

Planning and Data System for VA's Verification Program Need Improvement
GAO-13-95:
Published: Jan 14, 2013. Publicly Released: Jan 14, 2013.

Entrepreneurial Assistance:

Opportunities Exist to Improve Programs' Collaboration, Data-Tracking, and Performance Management
GAO-12-819:
Published: Aug 23, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 23, 2012.

Small Business Contracting:

Action Needed by Those Agencies Whose Advocates Do Not Report to Agency Heads as Required
GAO-11-418:
Published: Jun 3, 2011. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 2011.

Small Business Administration:

More Reports

Small Business Innovation Research:

Small Business Administration:

Office of Advocacy Needs to Improve Controls over Research, Regulatory, and Workforce Planning Activities
GAO-14-525:
Published: Jul 22, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 2014.

Small Business Research Programs:

More Guidance and Oversight Needed to Comply with Spending and Reporting Requirements
GAO-14-431:
Published: Jun 6, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 2014.

Small Business Administration:

Cosponsored Activities Can Benefit Small Businesses but Lack a Consistent Feedback Mechanism
GAO-14-260:
Published: May 30, 2014. Publicly Released: May 30, 2014.

Small Business Research Programs:

Agencies Did Not Consistently Comply with Spending and Reporting Requirements
GAO-14-567T:
Published: Apr 24, 2014. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 2014.

Small Business Administration:

Telecommunications:

Federal Broadband Deployment Programs and Small Business
GAO-14-203:
Published: Feb 7, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 2014.

Strategic Sourcing:

Small Business Innovation Research:

DOD's Program Supports Weapon Systems, but Lacks Comprehensive Data on Technology Transition Outcomes
GAO-14-96:
Published: Dec 20, 2013. Publicly Released: Dec 20, 2013.

State Small Business Credit Initiative:

Opportunities Exist to Enhance Performance Measurement and Evaluation
GAO-14-97:
Published: Dec 18, 2013. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 2013.
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SBA's Promotion of US ExportsFriday, March 1, 2013
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