When I became regional administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration, I never would have imagined the many positive experiences and challenges I’ve encountered during my visits across the Rocky Mountain region.
Twelve months, six states and nearly 10,000 miles later, I’ve taken the road less traveled by and learned the small business vitality of our local communities grows stronger each day thanks to the economic policies that have been implemented over the past year. The small business climate has changed for the better with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a reduction in red tape and government bureaucracy and a positive outlook that has infiltrated big and small businesses across the nation.
This positive outlook was verified during Small Business Saturday, held on Nov. 24, which kicked off the holiday shopping season for small businesses with record levels of participation.
Total reported spending among U.S. consumers who said they shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on that day reached a record $17.8 billion, according to data released from the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business. Based on this annual survey over the years, Small Business Saturday spending has now reached a reported estimate of $103 billion since the day began in 2010.
Even though retail sales were a bright spot over the holiday season, there still are pockets of the economy that continue to struggle and need help. Rural communities represent more than just vast farmlands and mountain towns, they’re the fabric of our country. Unfortunately, main streets in small-town America have struggled in recent years. Negative forces including demographic shifts, a lack of access to capital and unreliable internet service have hampered the ability of many rural businesses to expand.
Moving into 2019, the SBA will focus its programs and services toward improving access to capital for small businesses in rural communities as well as a renewed attention to providing business training and access to federal contracts for businesses located in those same areas.
To that end, the SBA recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Agriculture to strategically align our investment, training and support capabilities for rural markets. Ensuring rural entrepreneurs have the same opportunities as their urban counterparts remains a top priority for the Trump administration. I look forward to working with USDA — and all our federal partners — as we strive to create an environment conducive to growth and prosperity for rural America.
My mantra remains small business is big business in Colorado. The 611,000 small businesses in the state continue to generate two of every three net new jobs and deliver essential goods and services. As the voice of our nation’s entrepreneurs, the Small Business Administration celebrates the 30 million small businesses nationwide that ignite our local economies and enrich our communities throughout the year.
I look forward to the challenges the next 12 months have in store for me here at the SBA. All of us at the SBA are ready and willing to do what’s necessary to help our rural neighbors prosper in 2019.