Three years ago, I joined the U.S. Small Business Administration with a mission to help small businesses succeed. Leading the SBA team in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, South Dakota and North Dakota felt like the role of a lifetime.
This region is unique — it’s one of the largest and most rural in the nation in covering more than 580,000 square miles of mountains, prairies and deserts. Tucked into those landscapes are small businesses that constitute the backbone of our economy. Advocating for them was a mission that resonated deeply.
Now that my days with the agency have come to an end, I’m proud of the growth we’ve seen in our small business community and the ways entrepreneurs have demonstrated resolve amidst unprecedented trials.
Since the beginning, my goal was to bridge the urban-rural gap and ensure remote communities had equal access to SBA lending and development opportunities.
We have experienced tremendous growth in this area. Working with grassroots organizations, community leaders, elected officials and other federal agencies, we advocated for policies that promoted growth and created jobs to support communities of all sizes.
We made rural growth a priority, knowing the health of the smallest affects the health of the whole.
In 2020, I was honored when SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza named me national director of rural affairs, a position that allowed me to establish one of the most aggressive and robust rural outreach efforts in the nation.
This initiative has been an overwhelming success, and I look forward to watching rural businesses rebound as the agency continues prioritizing action in underserved and agricultural-based regions.
We also made long-term investments in communities that have considerable economic growth potential. We launched satellite offices in St. George, Utah, and Billings, Mont., to increase access to resources and opportunities.
We also recently announced that Women’s Business Centers would be added in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Missoula, Mont. These centers will boost resources, training and counseling to female economic drivers.
The agency also launched Ascent, a free digital platform designed to help women entrepreneurs grow and expand their businesses. This groundbreaking effort is the SBA’s largest single expansion of resources specifically tailored for women in more than 30 years.
These tools are more essential than ever. In the last year, I witnessed the tenacity, innovation and resiliency of business owners as they endured the most discouraging year many had ever experienced. Our district leadership teams were outstanding as they waded through complex legislation to help entrepreneurs in their states.
Between March and December, I participated in more than 80 media interviews and conducted countless presentations and meetings.
Through 16,000 miles of business visits and outreach efforts nationwide — and in the height of election-year politics — I witnessed the best of people coming together for the good of small businesses that create the fabric of our communities.
At every level of government, elected officials and staff with very different ideologies worked together to support entrepreneurs. In SBA Region VIII alone, a total of more than $27 billion was disbursed to 215,000 businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
Small business owners are the most determined, resilient people you’ll ever meet, and it’s been an absolute privilege to serve them as SBA Region VIII administrator and national rural affairs director. I’ll forever be grateful to all who have supported me and our SBA team along this journey. The future of entrepreneurship is bright. The best is yet to come.