Goal the same for regional SBA exec: Help small businesses

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Aikta Marcoulier

Aikta Marcoulier worked for more than 10 years running a Colorado Springs center providing a range of services to small businesses.

It was a job Marcoulier said prepared her well for her latest efforts to help small businesses — but on a much larger scale. 

President Joe Biden appointed Marcoulier in April as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Region VIII. She oversees the programs and services of the federal agency in Colorado as well as Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Her new role includes supporting the Biden administration and helping district SBA offices in her region meet their goals. She also expects the job to involve a lot of online meetings and travel to connect with staff and business owners in a six-state area that sprawls across more than 580,000 square miles, the most rural of any SBA region in the country.

At the same time, Marcoulier said one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s her goal to help small businesses succeed.

To that end, she said she’s excited about the resources the SBA offers, including assistance with financing, government contracting and disaster recovery.

She said she’s especially excited about an initiative to increase the share of federal contracts going to small businesses and strengthen domestic manufacturing and supply chains. Given the $1.2 trillion in funding included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, there are a lot of additional opportunities for small businesses, she added.

Before her appointment, Marcoulier worked more than 10 years as executive director of the Small Business Development Center in Colorado Springs. 

A network of 14 full-time SBDCs and more than 50 part-time satellite offices are located across Colorado, including the Grand Valley.

The centers offer a range of services, including free and low-cost counseling and instruction on all aspects of starting and growing businesses. 

During her more than 10 years as director,  the Pikes Peak SBDC twice received the SBA Region VIII award for excellence and innovation. The 2014 award recognized efforts to help businesses recover from wildfires and flooding.

Marcoulier received the Colorado State Star Award, the highest award presented to SBDC employees in the state.

In addition to her other duties, Marcoulier created and managed a cyber security program offering training and consulting to small businesses throughout Colorado.

Prior to joining the SBDC, Marcoulier worked as the director of partnership marketing for the Professional Bull Riders and before that as a project manager with the Native American Sport Council.

She received bachelor’s degrees in economics and psychology from the University of Iowa. She later received a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Phoenix.

Marcoulier said she was excited to accept the appointment as regional SBA administrator because it continue her work in helping small businesses. She works out of Denver, but oversees the operations of the agency in a six-state area.

The SBA offers a variety of programs and services, including those involving lending, government contracting and disaster relief. The Colorado District Office of the SBA backed a total of nearly $1.4 billion worth of loans during the 2021 fiscal year — $34 million in Mesa County.

Small businesses in Colorado are recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, Marcoulier said. But challenges persist, she said, including labor shortages and supply chain issues. Inflation and the threat of a recession could change spending in ways that affect small businesses.

Marcoulier said SBA efforts to increase the proportion of federal contracts going to small business could help, especially given the funding that will be spent under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. She encouraged small business owners to work with the SBA and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers to find out more about selling goods and services to the federal, state and local government.

Marcoulier said she enjoyed her work at the Pikes Peak SBDC, but now she’s looking forward to continuing that work on a larger scale as regional SBA administrator.

For more information about programs and services offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, visit the website at www.sba.gov.