The agency sponsors a variety of loan programs, including ones that target companies that are owned, operated and managed by ethnic minorities and women. Proposition 209 would probably bar such programs if they are administered by the state or local governments because the initiative prohibits consideration of race or gender in awarding government business. But because the SBA is a federal agency, it is beyond the reach of the initiative, meaning that its programs are not affected, at least directly, by the Supreme Court action this week.
Another lender still establishing itself in Los Angeles but already a source of hope for some entrepreneurs operating in economically depressed areas of the city is the Community Development Bank. Like the SBA, it is backed by federal money, and it intends to concentrate loans in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, some participants at Wednesday's conference said they hoped the effort to spread anti-affirmative action campaigns to other parts of the country would be thwarted.
Several commented on the experience this week in Houston, where voters solidly defeated a measure similar to Proposition 209. That heartened some conference participants, who said they hoped it would slow the momentum of future campaigns to knock down affirmative action.
Mack said: "That steamroller may not be moving as fast as they want it to be."