Small business - big prospects

A REPORT worth reading by business leaders has just been released by the National Commission on Jobs and Small Business. The commission is right on target in urging US small businesses - which employ half the nation's private work force - to move vigorously into export trade. Unfortunately, most small firms (15 million companies in the United States employ 500 or fewer workers) hardly look to export activity. Instead, a select group of 250 companies account for 80 percent of the total dollar volume of the nation's exports. And most of these companies are huge.

Export domination by the big boys is not necessarily the pattern abroad. In many nations, West Germany for example, smaller and medium-size companies eagerly seek out global markets.

The outlook of many American business leaders, sad to say, tends to be highly insular. But other export impediments are financial and logistical. How do small firms obtain financing? Lending institutions are geared to serve big corporations. How do smaller companies obtain information about export possibilities?

A Cabinet-level department could serve as a clearinghouse for trade. Government and private lending agencies can better steer financing to smaller firms. A new venture-capital pool for small ones, as the commission proposes, makes sense.

Small firms have a proud record. Last year they provided more than half of all new jobs created in the US. It's time they thought global.

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