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SBA launches awareness campaign on Year 2000

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The U.S. Small Business Administration, joined by a number of companies, associations, trade groups and U.S. senators, launched June 3 a national public awareness campaign to alert small businesses to the business risks associated with the Year 2000, or Y2K, computer problem.

In a news release, SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez said small business owners need to act now to protect themselves against the looming problem of computer systems that malfunction because of their inability to handle the calendar change to the year 2000.

The problem is expected to intensify as the millennium new year approaches.

"Small-business owners need to get their house in order now on the Y2K issue," Alvarez said. "I am concerned about disruptions that could occur to small companies that don't deal aggressively with this problem."

While most large public and private organizations have task forces working to resolve Y2K problems, Alvarez said many small-business owners appear to be ignoring the issue, according to the release. "Some may even be unaware the problem exists," she said.

"This is no small matter," Alvarez added. "The collective health of America's 23 million small businesses is one of our economy's vital signs. When small business is disrupted to a significant degree, the effects ripple throughout the economy."

SBA's Y2K campaign includes televised public service announcements and mass mailings to small-business owners, the release stated.

A small business may be exposed to Y2K problems through its own computer system.

Businesses are also vulnerable if an outside entity critical to the company's business or operations fails due to its own Y2K problem. Examples are important customers and suppliers, financial institutions, landlords and utilities.

Finally, a small company may be vulnerable through malfunction of machinery or equipment that operates on time-dependent embedded microprocessors. Security cards, telephones, elevators and refrigerators are examples.

Alvarez said, "Our message is a simple one, but it is hugely important for small-business owners: Are you Y2K OK?"

The SBA administrator urged every small-business owner to take three steps:

?Determine your business' Y2K risk. A self assessment test is available on the SBA's Internet Y2K web page. (www.sba. goviy2k/)

?If you are vulnerable, take action now. Don't wait. Fix your problem and test the results. Develop contingency plans to deal with the effects of Y2K problems outside your control.

?Stay informed on this issue.

Sens. Robert F. Bennett, of Utah, and Christopher J. Dodd, of Connecticut, joined SBA in the campaign announcement on Capitol Hill. Sens. Bennett and Dodd are co-chairmen of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem.

Also present was John A. Koskinen, assistant to the president and chairman of the President's Commission on Y2K Conversion, the release stated.

A number of companies, associations and trade groups also joined SBA in the campaign announcement.

They include: Dell Computer Corp., IBM Corp., Novell Corp., Lotus Corp., Microsoft Corp., 3 COM Corp., Digital Equipment Corp., NationsBank, PEPCO, American Bankers Association, Edison Electric Institute, National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Development Companies, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, established in 1953, provides financial, technical and management assistance to help Americans start, run and grow their businesses.

With a portfolio of business loans, loan guarantees and disaster loans worth more than $45 billion, the SBA is the nation's largest single financial backer of small businesses.

Last year, the SBA offered management and technical assistance to more than one million small business owners.

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