Regional administrator encourages businesses to take advantage of SBA resources

Betsy Markey
Betsy Markey

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Betsy Markey has come full circle.

When Markey launched a software company in the late 1980s, she used free services to help develop business and marketing plans and complete the paperwork for incorporation.

Markey now encourages other entrepreneurs to take advantage of those services and others in overseeing operations for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Colorado and five other states. “There’s a lot of great resources that’s available through the SBA,” said Markey, who’s been appointed the new administrator of SBA Region VIII.

Markey works out of a regional office in Denver, but oversees SBA programs and services in Colorado as well as Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Spread out over 580,000 square miles, the region is one of the largest for the SBA.

Markey brings to her latest position experience not only as an entrepreneur, but also a congresswoman and government administrator who’s held positions with four federal departments.

Markey said she expects to draw on her varied experiences in running businesses and working in both the legislative and executive branches of government. She said she knows what it’s like to run a business, but also how federal agencies work and how to promote collaborative efforts.

Her goal, she said, is to help entrepreneurs whether they need counseling to start and grow their ventures, access to capital or help in landing government contracts or exporting products and services.

Markey also said she wants the SBA to stand for another acronym: smart, bold and accessible. “We want to be all those things.”

Markey was appointed to succeed Matt Varilek as SBA Region VIII administrator.

Prior to joining the SBA, Markey served as assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier in her career, she worked for the Treasury Department as a budget and program analyst, human resources specialist and staff assistant to the deputy commissioner of the Customs Service. She subsequently worked for the State Department as director of computer security policy and training.

When Markey left the State Department  in 1988, she launched Syscom Services, a software company that offered services related to electronic mail and later Web site development and content management. By 1995, Syscom ranked 99th on the Inc. magazine list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in the country.

After moving with her husband and children to Colorado, Markey also owned Huckleberry’s, a coffee and ice cream shop in Fort Collins.

She  participated in the legislative affairs committee of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, founded the Larimer County Democratic Business Coalition, a network of small business owners in the county, and served as chairwoman of the Larimer County Democratic Party.

In 2008, Markey defeated incumbent Marilyn Musgrave to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado’s 4th District. Markey served one term before losing in her re-election bid to Republican challenger Cory Gardner in 2010.

Markey holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and master’s of public administration degree from American University in Washington, D.C.

Markey said she now oversees programs and services to help meet the needs of the more than 875,000 small businesses in her region.

Markey said she relied on those services herself when she started Syscom and enlisted free help from SCORE, an organization that partners with the SBA in offering counseling and mentoring to entrepreneurs.

Assistance also is available from the network of Small Business Development Centers, including the SBDC that operates at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction, Markey said.

Since access to capital remains an issue, the SBA offers loan guarantee programs that enable lenders to extend financing to businesses that might not qualify under conventional terms. A total of nearly $18.3 million worth of loans were issued in Mesa County during the 2015 fiscal year under two SBA programs. Markey said that financing in turn promotes economic development.

Assistance is available through still other SBA programs to land government contracts and either start or increase exporting, she said. That’s not to mention the help the SBA provides in obtaining bonding to bid on construction projects or relief in the aftermath of disasters, she added.

While Markey said she faces a large undertaking and “a lot of windshield time,” she expects to travel throughout the region to meet with business owners and local officials to discuss the issues they face and assistance the SBA can offer.

Having taken advantage of that assistance herself, Markey has come full circle in encouraging other entrepreneurs to do the same. “There’s a lot of services we have to offer.”