Small Business Administration (SBA) district director Janita Stewart was at the helm for another record-breaking year of assisting small businesses in Mississippi in 2004.
The Mississippi Business Journal chatted with Stewart, who will celebrate her 10th anniversary in the post next April, about new and existing loan programs, rural business development initiatives, outreach efforts and what needs to be done to increase awareness of the HUBZone program.
Mississippi Business Journal: Tell us what kind of year the SBA had in Mississippi in terms of loans and services to constituents now that fiscal year (FY) 2004 has come to an end.
Janita Stewart: The SBA approved 513 loans for Mississippi small businesses, totaling in excess of $134.7 million during FY04, which occurred October 1, 2003 to September 30, 2004.
The Mississippi 7(a) loan program accounted for 477 loans valued at almost $119.4 million, the 504 loan program for 30 loans valued at approximately $15.3 million, and six Microloans totaling $106,000. Overall, SBA’s Mississippi loan dollar volume of more than $134.7 million was up slightly, compared to FY03, which totaled $132.5 million.
At close of FY04, the Minority Enterprise Division of the Mississippi District Office had a total of 72 8(a) firms and awarded $75 million in federal government contracts and modifications. This was our best year ever, more than double the contracts awarded in FY03.
Nationally, 518 new firms were added to the 8(a) program and over 900 to the Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) program. SBA also provided procurement counseling and training to more than 34,000 businesses during FY04.
On average, one job is retained or created for each estimated $50,000 worth of SBA backing. As such, almost 2,700 Mississippi jobs were retained or created in FY04 as a result of SBA-backed lending, which serves to increase the tax base and support the state in terms of economic development.
This has been a critical year to get dollars out to small business owners and we’re very appreciative of the support our participating lenders have given us. Simply consider the positive economic impact of jobs created or retained as a result of SBA loans; their efforts really make a difference in our economy.
Nationally, SBA closed out a record-breaking year in FY04, backing 74,825 7(a) loans totaling $12.5 billion to small businesses, and 8,168 loans worth $3.9 billion under the 504 or Certified Development Company program. Minorities and women benefited from record levels in 2004, each more than double the levels set in 2001. Overall, nearly a third of SBA-backed loans went to minorities, and the number of loans to African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans rose to record levels — up 32% over last year for African-Americans, up 31.7% for Hispanics and up 33.7% for Asian-Americans. The number of loans to women increased 27.3%, while the loans made to veterans increased 21%.
MBJ: This past year, the SBA announced new programs such as the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership and the Rural Business Investment Program. Can you tell us about the response to these programs in Mississippi and what other new programs may be of special interest to small businesses in Mississippi?
JS: The response toward these initiatives has been terrific. During a Rural Initiative Conference held in Picayune in July, comments such as “this event was very informative and helped me a lot” was the norm. During the free session, SBA provided information on its loan guaranty programs and procurement programs, including 8(a)/SDB, HUBZone and PRO-Net.
There was also participation from the University of Southern Mississippi Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Mississippi Procurement Center, Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, Gulf Coast Business Technology Center, Mississippi Development Authority, Casino Magic Bay St. Louis, Mississippi Power Company, Northrop Grumman, Mississippi Gaming Commission, Hinds Community College SBDC, International Trade Center, Whitney National Bank, Friends of Children of Mississippi and Central Mississippi Development Company Inc.
The SBA has launched a venture capital program for businesses in rural areas. Although none currently are available in Mississippi, Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs) will leverage their own privately raised capital with up to $60 million in government-guaranteed loans to invest in rural businesses. The RBICs also will receive grants to provide technical assistance.
The 2002 Farm Bill created the program, but the government is just now beginning to accept applications for RBICs. The SBA is handling the program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is similar to the SBA’s existing Small Business Investment Co. and New Markets Venture Capital programs. Venture capital firms that plan to raise at least $10 million in private equity capital are eligible to apply for RBIC status.
MBJ: Outreach efforts have been high on your agenda the past couple of years. What are the various initiatives that have been instituted to increase use of SBA services?
JS: Currently, SBA is engaged in outreach to faith-based organizations. On June 3, 2004, President Bush issued Executive Order 13342 creating a new Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the SBA. As part of its mandate, the center will help groups and individuals learn about and access SBA programs, which will enable them to better serve their communities.
The center will ensure that faith-based and community organizations have equal access to SBA programs consistent with the law, and will reach out to and educate faith-based and community organizations about SBA programs and benefits. Faith-based organizations interested in attending or receiving such information should contact the SBA district or branch office at (601) 965-4378 or (228) 863-4449, respectively, or visit the SBA Web site at http://www.sba.gov/fbci/welcome.html for more information.
MBJ: How is the HUBZone program going in Mississippi?
JS: We continue outreach efforts to inform small businesses of the benefits of HUBZone certification. Per the HUBZone Web site, there currently are 195 HUBZone firms in Mississippi. Small businesses that want to participate in the SBA’s HUBZone program can use its enhanced online tool designed to make it easier to apply and less time-consuming to find out whether they’ve been accepted.
As your readers may know, HUBZone is a small business program designed to boost “historically underutilized business zones,” that is, areas of low economic activity. In addition to being a small business, applicants must have their principal office located in one of those zones and have 35% of its employees residing in those areas. There are more than 7,000 such zones in urban areas, 900 in rural areas and at least one on every federally recognized American Indian reservation. SBA is hoping to have 4,000 businesses signed up for the program by the end of this fiscal year. Visit the HUBZone Web site at https://eweb1.sba.gov/hubzone/internet/ for more information or to apply online.
MBJ: SBA’s 2005 Small Business Person of the Year awards program is coming up soon. Can you remind us about the deadline and its importance to the business community?
JS: The deadline to submit nominations for yourself or someone else is December 3. Nominations for SBA small business awards may be submitted by any individual or organization dedicated to the support of the small business community, including trade or professional associations and business organizations.
To learn more about Small Business Week, download a nomination form online at www.sba.gov/ms/sbpoy2005form.pdf or call the SBA Gulfport Branch Office at (228) 863-4449, ext. 14.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.
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