Thursday, December 23, 2010
SBA taps Holly Springs for visit
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs was the center of attention from the Small Business Administration last week. State SBA officials and the national ombudsman for the SBA met with over 60 small business persons to discuss the programs offered.
Why Holly Springs?
Chamber of Commerce executive director Rebecca Bourgeois said SBA’s ombudsman, Ester Vassar from Washington, D.C., initiated the visit. Holly Springs was chosen because it is part of the Appalachian Region and because “Holly Springs is in the forefront of the minds in Washington.”
“We are a thriving community of small businesses and we have a strong connection to the Small Business Administration,” Bourgeois said. “In our current economy, we are more important as a small business community than ever. Becoming a member of the chamber is how we can keep and promote Holly Springs and its citizens and Marshall County. This is a nice kickoff for the New Year.”
The small business forum drew a wide cross section of the community out to learn about Mississippi’s SBA program, including Alliance HealthCare System and Williams Clinic, Rust College staff, county and city elected officials, and experts from the Ole Miss Small Business Center.
Janita Stewart, district director, praised the attendance and Bourgeois, whom she said “did a yeoman’s job” in identifying interest and marketing the Regulatory Fairness Forum.
Dr. Kenneth Williams was honored in Holly Springs as Small Businessperson of Year in the May 2005 celebration - this forum making a second important and high-level visit by SBA to Holly Springs.
Because the entire city of Holly Springs supported the event in 2005 at the Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Multi-Purpose Building, SBA saw fit to hold this forum here, Stewart said.
People in Washington took note.
The forum was to introduce district and state SBA leadership and to provide information to help people get into business, to grow a business and to succeed in business. The SBA also offers a disaster relief program through long-term, low interest loans to individuals, businesses, churches, etc.
Most every large business got started as a small business and received a small business loan - including Memphis, Tenn.’s own FedEx, according to Rhonda Fisher, supervisory lender relations specialist.
Small businesses have a hard time gaining access to capital, so the guaranteed loan program is a way SBA helps local banks assist a new or small business to get on its feet by protecting up to 90 percent of the loan through guaranty.
“We are here to help you become a small business owner,” she said. “We are not here to help the Bill Gates of the world.”
SBA requires the owner:
• pledge all business assets until the loan is paid off.
• be of good character, have a feasible business plan and sufficient operating funds.
• have adequate equity or cash assets and to be debt free.
• show an ability to repay loan.
SBA is proud to provide loans to veterans through its Patriot Express program. SBA also recently became able to finance dealer inventory on showroom floors.
Alice Doss, supervisory business development specialist, provided tips on what people should look to SBA for, including:
• One-stop-shop help to get a person in business and help them stay there.
• Information on federal government contracts. A business must be CCR.gov registered with SBA to get government contracts. The federal government is one of the biggest buyers of goods and services in the world, she said. Doss wants those contracts in Mississippi to go to Mississippi small businesses first, not to out-of-state businesses. SBA assists in the what, where, who and how of the contract application process.
• Women-owned small businesses qualify for sole-source government contracts as a minority. Not all these contracts must be bid but merely have to be asked for.
“Ladies, we have a chance, so go for it,” Doss said.
• Offers federal 8(a) contracts to a business that can be a sole-source provider anywhere in the nation. The nine-year program requires an owner be in business for two or more years and to supply business financials and tax returns.
SBA offers lots of training. Ninety percent of SBA firms won contracts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“This is an opportunity. This is America. This is the stuff you’ve paid for,” said Doss. “I’m also looking out for Mississippi. The federal government buys just about anything. Think about it.”
To attend a free in-depth training conference March 29, 2011, in Gulfport, call Doss and her team at 601-965-4378. Also visit www.sba.gov/ms to learn more about SBA resources and programs or to sign-up to receive a free newsletter and SBA e-Alerts.
Esther Vassar, a Tennesseean by birth, was appointed national ombudsman and assistant administrator for regulatory enforcement fairness for the U.S. SBA in August 2009. Vassar had first-hand experience as a small business owner and worked as director of a state regulatory agency and for Virginia’s Minority Business Enterprise, prior to her appointment.
She also held administrative and faculty positions at several universities including U. Virginia, Howard U., William and Mary College, Hampton U., Virginia Commonwealth U. and UNC Chapel Hill.
She has received numerous awards for high standards of integrity, responsibility, service and leadership. She is a mother and grandmother.
Members of the local delegation were impressed with the SBA forum’s choice of Holly Springs.
“I think it means that local business people can see a clear commitment to improving their business environment and an opportunity for their business,” said Rep. Kelvin Buck. “Small business connects communities all over America and certainly our community in Holly Springs.
“Having help here from the national SBA is huge, because they could have chosen another area in Mississippi, another state, or another region. They chose Holly Springs.”
Sen. Bill Stone agreed.
“It is just a great opportunity for our area to have this. They are taking an interest in us,” he said. “An unbelievable turnout. And I understand, SBA are the ones who initiated it.”
Bill Mobley, executive director of Marshall County IDA, was also ecstatic at the participation and that IDA was chosen to host the event.
The guest register showed businessmen and women attended from Memphis, the District of Columbia, Ripley, Ole Miss, Pontotoc, Arlington, Tenn., Byhalia, Ohio, Red Banks, Corinth, Horn Lake and New Albany, as well as Holly Springs.
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