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News and advice from our small-business Web site

A Farewell Gift

If you're a small business in a depressed area, a bit of the Clinton legacy might prove useful. In his last days in office, the former President got Congress to approve $150 million in new investment capital to be funneled through investment firms as equity to small companies. Eventually, the firms have to pay back the government.

The program aims to create jobs by directing investment to depressed areas. But the money could also go to a small company in a low-income area that does not hire local workers.

To qualify for the money, the investor will have to come up with $6.5 million in matching funds by Sept. 15--and do about 160 hours of paperwork. Meg Barnette, counsel to the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance, says the deadlines will be tough to meet even for those already working in the field.

Foreign Affairs

Here's a novel way to avoid a mess of bureaucratic regulation if you hire a lot of foreigners: Push salaries above $60,000. New regulations imposed in January create a class of "H-1B-dependent" businesses. They're companies that hire at least 15% of their employees through the H-1B visa program, which allows you to import highly skilled labor for hard-to-fill posts. Those companies will have to show not only that they couldn't hire locally, but that no layoffs occurred either 90 days before or after filing for the visas. But if your H-1B workers have a master's degree or earn at least $60,000 a year, you're exempt.

The regs also make clear that H-1B workers must get equal benefits and other legal protections.

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