Today, Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Representative Claudia Tenney (R-NY) introduced the Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act, which would increase access to resources and opportunities for female entrepreneurs in Kansas and across the country. Davids and Tenney are reintroducing this bill after it passed last Congress with unanimous bipartisan support.
The Women’s Business Center (WBC) program was established 30 years ago to help women entrepreneurs succeed, and now boasts 150 locations throughout the U.S. These centers serve over 150,000 business owners annually—including the Kansas City WBC in Fairway, KS, which reached over 800 clients last year. WBCs provide a full range of counseling and technical training services for small businesses and have become even more vital as businesses navigate the pandemic.
“Women-owned businesses employ 9.4 million people nationwide and contribute $1.2 trillion to our economy each year, but throughout the pandemic, female entrepreneurs have been more likely to close their doors. By properly funding resources like Women’s Business Centers, we can increase access to vital counseling and training services that help set entrepreneurs up for success,” said Davids. “The Third District has an amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem, and I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation that will spur even further innovation and economic opportunity here at home.”
“Women-owned businesses are a major force in our economy. The Women’s Business Centers program empowers female entrepreneurs to cultivate their businesses. As a long-time small business owner, I am honored to support legislation to help bolster this program and provide additional oversight and good governance measures to increase its effectiveness and accountability,” said Tenney.
The Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act reauthorizes the WBC program for four years, increases the authorization level from $18 million annually to $31.5 million, and increases the cap on individual center grants for the first time since the program began. The bill also establishes an accreditation program run by the Association of Small Business Development Centers to ensure all WBCs provide excellent service and counseling.
The Kansas City WBC serves Kansas entrepreneurs through business trainings, workshops, counseling, and access to capital programs targeted at female business owners. Throughout the pandemic, they have adapted many of their programs to be virtual, relying on SBA funding and the CARES Act to continue to service the strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kansas. The Kansas City WBC shared their impactful work with Congress during a House Small Business Committee hearing chaired by Davids in June.
“We are a small team at the Kansas City Women’s Business Center, but we serve a strong, vibrant community of entrepreneurs. Part of the reason we were able to serve over 800 clients and adapt our services during the pandemic last year is because of the support of champions like Representative Davids,” said Sherry Turner, Executive Director of the Kansas City Women’s Business Center. “This bill would significantly increase our funding, allowing us to reach more women across Kansas and offer more trainings and services to help them succeed and thrive—which has compound effects that lift up our entire local economy.”
“Starting a business can be daunting and confusing, especially for underserved groups who don’t typically have the network or access to capital that is needed to get off the ground. When I was first starting TGS, the Kansas City Women’s Business Center was an incredible resource, and I’m glad that Rep. Davids recognizes the value of their work,” said Lenora Payne, CEO of Technology Group Solutions. “Their support gave me the tools I needed to be successful and to grow my company—and today, we have two offices and over 80 employees across Kansas. The WBC Improvement Act would offer that same opportunity for success to more women business owners in our area.”
“The Association of Women’s Business Centers excitedly welcomes the introduction of H.R. 6441, the Women’s Business Center Improvement Act of 2022. The legislation contains critical updates to the program for the Women’s Business Centers around the country to be a more effective resource partner in providing needed access to capital, entrepreneurial development training and counseling, and technical assistance to women-owned businesses,” said Corinne Hodges, CEO of the Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC). “We are thrilled about the prospects of the legislation and the impact program modernization will have on our network of 140 WBCs in their efforts supporting women entrepreneurship across the United States. As women entrepreneurs navigate an increasingly complicated business landscape in the wake of COVID-19, the need for bolstering the WBC program is clear. We look forward to supporting this bill in the House and urge its introduction and swift passage in the Senate.”
Throughout the pandemic, Davids has worked tirelessly to ensure that small businesses continue to serve as the heart of our community. She introduced the SUPPLIES Act, which would promote manufacturing of PPE and medical equipment like face masks, hospital gowns, ventilators, and testing materials at small and medium manufacturers here at home. She has also been a fierce advocate for minority- and tribal-owned businesses, working with SBA to secure critical funds through PPP for these traditionally underserved business owners.