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eBay Launches Small Business Financing

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an effort to boost its services and appeal for small businesses, online auction giant eBay unveiled here today a new financing program in connection with GE Business Credit Services.

The effort comes in tandem with the site's "United States of eBay" Small Business Summit event yesterday, which gathered a selection of its small business users in Washington, D.C. to, among other things, rally against a proposed plan for Internet taxation.

The new eBay-GE Business Credit program is designed to enable small businesses that use eBay to easily obtain credit. As part of the program, eBay said that GE Business Credit Services would waive its application fees, account opening fees, and first-year annual fees for businesses that apply for its credit programs through eBay, or which are PayPal merchants.

"eBay and GE will help small businesses deal with unexpected or seasonal expenses, and replace high-interest loans or debts," Meg Whitman, eBay's president and CEO, said in a speech at the National Press Club.

That's important, she said, because small businesses fuel much of the nation's economic growth, and hooking those businesses into the Internet encourages their creation and helps them better compete against larger firms.

"The Internet is creating jobs, hundreds of thousands of jobs -- and not just jobs in Silicon Valley, but jobs on Main Street, in sectors forgotten long ago by our service-oriented economy," she said. "We must listen to small enterprise and create a supportive environment for them to succeed. Job creation and the growth of our economy in no small measure depend on how well we support these invisible, small pioneers."

The financing program enables small businesses that use eBay to apply for unsecured working capital credit lines up to $50,000, and secured credit lines over $50,000.

The move but is the latest by eBay to support emerging companies doing business through its site. Whitman today also announced a deal between eBay's philanthropic arm, the eBay Foundation, and the One Economy Corporation -- a nonprofit that works to promote technology to low-income citizens with the goal of improving their lives and participating in the economy.

With funding from eBay, One Economy created a resource site on its Beehive portal designed to give small business owners information on starting and running a business.

"Corporate America needs to help, too," Whitman said. "It's for this reason that the eBay Foundation ... has partnered with One Economy Corp. Together, we launched an online entrepreneurial center today, to help low-income individuals start an Internet business. We need to do all we can to help small businesses across the country to pursue the promise of economic prosperity."

Not surprisingly, helping small businesses benefits eBay, as well. Whitman said that "big-name brands" make up only about 5 percent of the company's income, and that more than 430,000 individuals make a full-time living by selling on eBay.

"eBay turned out to be such a level playing field that the big sellers are not advantaged," she said. "They pay the same fees, and have the same opportunity to market. And, in fact, big businesses are somewhat less able to handle the tremendous costs of personalization and customer support that eBay requires."

Christopher Saunders is managing editor of eCommerce-Guide.com.