You are unlikely to find anyone who is a more passionate cheerleader for small businesses taking advantage of the programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) programs than Gary Reed. After about 15 years working to market SBA programs in Mississippi, Reed was appointed in February 2011 to be manager of the Gulfport SBA branch that covers 12 South Mississippi counties.
“Gary Reed takes his job as SBA’s Gulfport branch manager very seriously,” said Janita R. Stewart, Mississippi district director for the SBA. “He demonstrates every single day true professionalism, esteemed work ethics, and something that is not really required — true and honest care and concern for the small business customer. He is someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty — just because. Gary reminds me of someone with a ‘servant’s heart.’”
Government employees as a whole are often lumped into the same category, and perhaps misjudged in terms of their work performance.
“I’m not advocating that government work performance is 100 percent perfect,’ Stewart said. “I’m sure that doesn’t even exist in the private sector. However, Gary most certainly dispels that negative perception. He provides invaluable service to small businesses and entrepreneurs in South Mississippi.”
Reed, a native of Gulfport with a marketing degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, knows both the pleasures and pains of living on the Coast. A recent example of one of the “pains” was Hurricane Isaac. Reed could be found burning the midnight oil after the storm working to quickly serve people who had damage and needed SBA assistance.
While it is difficult to know how many businesses in South Mississippi were affected by Hurricane Isaac, the number was sufficient to warrant designating several counties for physical and economic injury assistance. As of Sept. 17, 1,368 applications had been dispersed to businesses that may have been impacted.
Reed sees that businesses on the Gulf Coast still have impacts from Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.
“The high cost of insurance remains a major challenge,” Reed said. “I’ve counseled clients who were forced to delay starting their business because the insurance cost was prohibitive. Others, which are in business, are faced with passing on that cost to their customers, which may affect their sales.”
Even with the downside of hurricanes, Reed sees that the Coast is one of the more dynamic places in Mississippi for business development.
“The mixture of industries, from casinos to military bases to shipbuilders, makes the Mississippi Gulf Coast a great place for people to live and work,” Reed said. “That helps for small businesses interested in selling directly to those residents, as well as securing contract opportunities with large firms.”
One of the SBA’s most popular programs for small business and lending partners for helping rebuild after Katrina has been the Gulf Opportunity (GO) loan program,
“The program was introduced in 2005 as a one-year pilot to help businesses located in counties severely impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Mississippi, the Florida panhandle, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas,” Reed said. “Mississippi has approved more GO loans than any of the other authorized states. The program provides an 85 percent guaranty and streamlined loan processing to lending partners that agree to make expedited SBA 7(a) loans available to small businesses located in the designated counties. The program has been so popular that SBA has extended it each fiscal year since its inception and currently is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2013.”
SBA also offers tools to help small businesses successfully compete in the federal sector through its HUBZone, 8(a) and woman-owned small business (WOSB) contract procurement certification programs. These programs enhance businesses based on a variety of factors including their location and/or if they are socially and economically disadvantaged. According to the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, Mississippi 8(a)-, HUBZone- and WOSB-certified businesses have secured $151.7 million in contracts since the beginning of this fiscal year.
One program Reed said might be under-utilized is SBA’s CAPLines program. They can be used to guaranty financing for the direct costs of performing certain construction, service and supply contracts; finance the direct cost associated with commercial and residential construction; finance operating capital; and consolidate short-term debt.
For more information about the four distinct CAPLine loan programs, contact the state district or Gulfport branch office, or visit the website www.sba.gov/ms.
One of the most common mistakes Reed sees small business owners make is the failure to make a business plan and not fully understanding the difficulties of business ownership.
“Even the best idea has to be well executed, so having a detailed business plan provides the business owner and their potential financier a clear vision of how the business will operate and vie against current or future competitors,” he said. “The business owner should review the plan on a regular basis to ensure they’re still on track. Potential business owners should also know that owning a business means long hours, adhering to local, state and federal regulatory requirements and, if sales are slow, the owner is the last person to receive a salary. Both of these are reasons why it’s important to use the free services of our resource partners: SCORE, Mississippi Small Business Development Center, MACE Women’s Business Center and the Magnolia Business Alliance, a Regional Cluster.”
Reed is a recipient of the Gulfport Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellow received for his civic role in business and community development. Reed’s charities include Feed My Sheep, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army and Rotary International.
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