Goldman Lends a (Small) Helping Hand

CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- Financial powerhouse Goldman Sachs ( GS) operates in a completely different universe from the average small business.

For Goldman, 2009 is turning out to be a banner year with record profits. The company has already set aside almost $17 billion for employee compensation, which works out to an average bonus of $700,000 per worker.

Meanwhile, small businesses are struggling, and bonuses are nonexistent. There's only one arena where mom 'n' pop operations have an advantage over Goldman: public opinion. Small businesses are praised by Democrats and Republicans alike as the economy's prime growth engine. No one scores any political points by sticking up for Goldman.

That might explain why the company recently announced a $500 million program to provide support services and financing for small businesses. With an advisory council chaired by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Goldman Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, it's a high-profile project that immediately captured headlines.

But will it help you? Most likely, no. The program plans to target 10,000 small businesses -- a tiny drop in a very large bucket, given that there are millions of potential beneficiaries across the country.

Even owners who do get chosen won't find the initiative a cure-all. Goldman isn't handing out cash to pay off debt or help hire back laid-off workers. The program focuses primarily on education, funding business and management classes at community colleges and universities, and providing scholarships for small-business owners to attend. The plan is to eventually extend into online classes as well.

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