The Business Times
Greg Lopez acknowledges that even a federal agency as large as the U.S. Small Business Administration can’t assure profitability for small business owners. “We don’t have the magic wand to make people successful.”
But owners who work with the agency and avail themselves of its numerous programs are more likely to make their own magic, said Lopez, director of the Colorado District Office of the SBA. “We have the resources and knowledge to help make them successful.”
Improving prospects for growth in Colorado, including the Western Slope, means there’s no time like the present, he added.
Lopez recently traveled to Grand Junction to detail provisions of the newly implemented federal health care law and speak at a one-year anniversary celebration for the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Business Times, Lopez also discussed his outlook for small businesses in the state and some of the ways the SBA can help those businesses.
Lopez said his expectations for 2014 are as upbeat as any he’s had since becoming director of the Colorado SBA office in 2008. The “shock factor” of a financial meltdown and ensuing recession has worn off even as economic and business conditions have stabilized, he said.
“I’m feeling more positive today about the well-being of small businesses,” he said.
Lopez bases his outlook on a several factors, among them the increasing number of cranes in the Denver skyline in use in constructing new buildings. Along with commercial development, the pace of residential development has accelerated, he said.
Job growth offers yet another measure, he said, with an estimated increase of 43,900 in nonfarm payrolls in Colorado during 2013. Nearly every industry sector has grown.
Moreover, banks once reluctant to lend money to businesses have put out the “welcome mat” in aggressively seeking lending opportunities, he added.
As consumer confidence has improved, so has business confidence, he said. “There’s a sentiment of recovery.”
While the economic recovery has been most robust along the Front Range, Lopez said he expects improving conditions to extend to other areas of Colorado, including the Western Slope.
Lopez welcomed an announcement by WPX Energy the company plans to increase the number of drilling rigs operating in the Piceance Basin this year by two to nine and increase capital expenditures in the region by $100 million to nearly $500 million.
Even with improving conditions, small business owners still must address the fundamentals to succeed, Lopez said — selling the goods and services customers want and consistently providing a positive experience.
In addition to loan guaranty programs that ease access to capital, the SBA can help through programs that provides counseling and promote government contracting opportunities, he said.
The important step for owners, Lopez said, is to avail themselves of those resources, whether it’s gleaning information from the SBA website or calling the agency. Funded in part by the SBA, a network of small business development centers throughout Colorado offer free and low-cost counseling and training. That includes the center operated at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction.
The SBA can help in evaluating and adjusting business plans, inventories and marketing as well as assisting businesses in landing government contracts that increase sales, Lopez said.
While the SBA can’t guarantee profitability, the agency can help small business owners achieve it, Lopez said. “We’re here to help them to be successful.”
For more information about SBA resources, log on to www.sba.gov or call the SBA Colorado District Office at (303) 844-2607.