SBA Loans and Rocket Ships

After joining SBA’s 10-cluster pilot program, Alabama has become a hub for defense and space entrepreneurs.

Alabama has long been known as a hub for defense and space research; but in recent years, thanks to funding from the SBA, the state has developed a new reputation – supporter of entrepreneurs developing advanced defense technology.

Cat Clifford writes a feel-good article of how SBA grants can make a real difference for a Main Street community. Two years ago, the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, a non-profit research organization, applied for an SBA grant to create a “cluster” or business network that could help business owners tap the rich vein of government contracts in the defense industry. The center received $600,000 in 2010 and created the Huntsville Advanced Technology Cluster, joining SBA’s 10-cluster pilot program to aid regional small businesses.

For entrepreneurs who can’t fulfill a contract on their own, the cluster helps them find another small business owner to team up with and complete the project. Some 300 to 350 companies now make up the cluster, and 90% are small businesses. The cluster’s area of focus run the gamut from small spacecraft and airships to intelligence gathering and surveillance to innovative energy technologies to unmanned ground and aerial vehicles.