The Small Business Administration regional administrator has spent the past two days in North Texas meeting with chambers of commerce and city leaders about issues facing small businesses and the options currently available to those struggling. . South Central Regional Administrator Ted James said the visit was aimed at raising awareness of the Community Browser Pilot Program.
The pilot program offers funding to local and state governments, nonprofits, and other organizations to provide financial assistance, marketing, and industry-specific training for small businesses.
The program targets communities considered underserved. On Thursday, Ted James met with city leaders from Balch Springs, Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Glenn Heights, Hutchins, Lancaster, Ovila and Wilmer.
“We’ve tried to be a lot more aggressive. A lot of small businesses don’t know about the good things that happen at the SBA,” James said. “Our community navigators are a brand new initiative through the US bailout, working in communities of interest ensuring the small business ecosystem recognizes that the SBA is there.”
James answered questions about interest rates and efforts to raise awareness of SBA loan programs available for underserved markets.
“There’s a ‘South of 30’ in every community. We just need to do a better job of pushing it,” James said. “What we did with the ‘Community Advantage Program’, the changes there are specific to ‘South of 30s’, disadvantaged businesses.”
“As leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure our small business owners are equipped with everything they need to succeed,” said Glenn Heights Mayor Pro Tem Sonja Brown.
Brown said the education and financial literacy aspects are critical to small business success. She credited the bipartisan Infrastructure Act with opening up federal contracting opportunities for small businesses owned by minorities, disadvantaged people and disabled veterans.
“It just opens up the playing field,” Brown said. “Small businesses that have never done business with the government before, it gives them that opportunity.”
James also asked about the role inflation can play in small business development.
“A lot of people forget that even if you own a small business, you might still be living on check after check,” said DeSoto Mayor Pro Tem Andre Byrd. “When the cost of goods goes up, it affects your bottom line.”
Byrd said small businesses are also still struggling with a shortage of workers.
“We’re also in the midst of a jobs crisis,” Byrd said. “We’re paying more for the same labor and labor than maybe three or four years ago, we didn’t have to pay. It wasn’t as competitive. They cannot make up that difference and not pass to the consumer.”
Barry Gordon, mayor of Duncanville, said the town’s economic development corporation has set up a loan program offering grants for small business growth. The city held a forum for minority and women-owned businesses last week.
“We’re a lot of small entrepreneurs. They’re the very successful ones,” Gordon said. “These municipalities, these small businesses are the ones we need to focus on. In this room, we are focusing on our small businesses.”
James, the SBA’s administrator, said the agency is working to fill an “information void” so local governments, nonprofits and other organizations know what services are available.
“We’ve had some tough times before,” James said. “One of the things I would say to small businesses, like you’re out there and ready to grow or grow even in these tough times, SBA products, because they have the government guarantee federal, are probably the best way for you to go.”
James said the SBA also held a roundtable for lenders to address investment issues in South Dallas County.
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