"It becomes very awkward and difficult to put part of a program in place," Henry said.

"I don't want to use that as a defense of it," he continued, calling the situation an "operational difficulty" of the small-business program.

At the same time, Henry said, the state has made resources available to the small business community. Last year, he said, the state was awarded $23 million in federal funding to help small businesses and startup companies gain access to capital. The state received its first, $7.6 million installment last year, of which $3 million has been allocated so far, Henry said.

"The concern we would have is, 'Are our resources being held back from the small business community?'" he said. "If that were the case, I would be incredibly concerned. But it's not the case. The administration has done a Herculean effort to get resources to the small business community."

The Board of Public Works and DBED are expected to finish outlining each of their responsibilities in administering the program by the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year, which begins in July, DBED's Johansson said.

Soon after that, the state plans to put out a request for proposals for one or several experienced investment fund managers to provide capital and loans to small, minority- and women-owned businesses, the DBED secretary said.

"All parties involved in this process share your enthusiasm for this program and its long-term benefit to the Maryland small business community, as well as your frustration in the unexpected delays in the deployment of these funds," Johansson wrote in a letter to McFadden. The secretary replied on behalf of the governor.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh of Baltimore said she has talked to several potential fund managers who are waiting for the request for proposals.

"The longer we delay, another opportunity could leave us," she said. "There are many people in the state who want to expand their business or create additional business. The state should be moving forward. If not, we'll have to ask the question, 'What's the holdup?'"

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