Technical Knockout

Technical Knockout: Closing the gaps in regional small business technical assistance systems

Helping small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to ensuring a strong economic recovery. Since the start of the pandemic, small businesses have had to navigate a multitude of challenges including public health regulations, reduced demand for some products and services, and supply chain disruptions, among many others. One way small businesses have traditionally received support is through technical assistance. Technical assistance refers to services and guidance provided to small businesses that address such common needs as strategic planning, capital access, marketing, networking, financial planning, incubation and acceleration. These services are typically organized at a regional level but many are federally funded.

Although technical assistance services have long been available to small businesses, they have become especially important in helping them navigate through the pandemic. The crisis, however, has exposed pre-existing gaps in regional technical assistance systems that, without further action, will persist after the crisis is over and limit the potential for a strong recovery.

In this report, we identify region-specific gaps in technical assistance systems as well as gaps that are likely to exist throughout the nation. The most important gaps include language and cultural barriers in the provision of technical assistance services, insufficient assistance with access to capital, insufficient support to help businesses understand their technical assistance needs and how to navigate the technical assistance system, lack of assistance to help businesses prepare for large-scale disasters and economic shocks, and insufficient assistance to meet industry-specific needs. To address these gaps, we recommend the following public policy measures:

  1. Improve access to culturally competent multilingual small business technical assistance.
  2. Make small business owners more aware of technical assistance and help them understand which services they need.
  3. Increase funding for technical assistance during the pandemic recovery and help small businesses prepare for the next downturn.
  4. Develop a regional, industry-specific technical assistance program to help industries important to business owners of color.
  5. Streamline regional coordination of technical assistance.
  6. Expand technical assistance to rural and under-resourced communities.

Without addressing these issues now, pandemic-related federal, state, and local aid may fail to reach small businesses. Strengthening the nation’s regional technical assistance systems will ensure that small businesses receive the support they need to recover from the pandemic while also preparing them for the next downturn.

Download the full report to read the complete findings and recommendations.


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