The planned closure of the Small Business Administration office in Spokane is prompting a reversal in political arguments by two Washington members of Congress.
Both Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Rep. George Nethercutt, a Republican, would like the office to stay open.
But Murray contends the administration is listening to the call to cut government by closing the office. Nethercutt vows a fight to keep it open.
Murray received a promise recently from the head of the SBA to come to Spokane and explain how the agency’s programs will work when its local office closes.
“I have a real concern that they don’t just become Seattle oriented,” Murray said.
Administrator Philip Lader recently wrote Murray that SBA services in Spokane will not be reduced, even though the office will be closed. Most states will have only one SBA office under the “Reinventing Government” plan.
The SBA no longer makes direct loans or operates extensive training programs, Lader said. Instead, it has a network of banks that make the loans, and combines with local government agencies and businesses to provide training and advice.
The agency will keep one employee in Spokane, Lader added, even after its office closes.
Even though the office has a great reputation, Spokane may have to accept the reorganization as the price of cutting the budget, Murray said.
Nethercutt said he would fight to keep the Spokane SBA office open because it provides a valuable service.
“We need more than just a figurehead person in Spokane,” he said. “If the service it provides to small business is cost-effective, we can argue in favor of it.”
That argument could get overshadowed by the bigger argument over the budget, Murray said.
“It’s not at all certain we will have an SBA.”