muscles up search

The cross-agency Web site has added a new search feature to help business owners and prospective business owners find government financial assistance for their enterprises.

"We've reduced the amount of time [someone] would have to spend searching for loans and grants," said Nancy Sternberg, the program manager for the Business Gateway, the e-government initiative that spawned

The idea for the specialized search feature came about because the project management team found that almost a third of the site's visitors had been looking for finance-related information, as shown by the search terms being used on the site and responses from the American Customer Satisfaction survey questions.

Twenty-one federal agencies provide support and materials for, which was developed to provide a single location on the Web where individuals can find all the resources they need to start and run a business.

"The federal government isn't always easy to understand from an organizational perspective, so we've taken some of the guessing out of it," Sternberg said.

The new search service starts with a list of 15 questions that users fill out. The possible answers map to an index created by the team that points the way to the appropriate resources. The site uses a Google search appliance to provide the results. Search results include resources on and also the specific sites on other agency Web sites.

The Small Business Administration offers businesses loans and grants, as do other agencies ' such as the Agriculture Department ' and state agencies. However, previously someone looking for financial assistance would have to search these agency Web sites separately, Sternberg noted. She said when was first developed, the Web team surveyed other federal agencies and state sites for relevant information to include on the site.

In addition to a general site search, the site has long featured a search dedicated to finding licenses and permits needed to run a business.

"This is a difficult time for our economy and especially our small business owners. We hope this tool will help them if they are inclined to look for loans and grants. The government is really trying to be helpful," Sternberg said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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