Valley Voices

Starting a business? Here’s how the SBA helped Valley entrepreneurs last year

Small Business Administration Region IX Administrator Donna Davis speaks in Kern County speaking about SBA programs to nearly 500 small-business owners at the annual California Contracting, Acquisition and Procurement Expo held in November.
Small Business Administration Region IX Administrator Donna Davis speaks in Kern County speaking about SBA programs to nearly 500 small-business owners at the annual California Contracting, Acquisition and Procurement Expo held in November. Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

The U.S. Small Business Administration honors the successes of San Joaquin Valley entrepreneurs last year. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and at the center of job creation, economic development, innovation, and global competitiveness here and around the country.

A cabinet-level agency representing America’s entrepreneurs, the SBA worked hard the past 12 months to make our capital, contracting and counseling programs smart, bold and accessible.

The SBA implemented smart changes to our lending programs last year. In the Fresno district, the SBA approved nearly $420 million in small business loans during the 2016 fiscal year, supporting more than 9,000 jobs.

SBA One automated and streamlined the loan process, helping lenders close deals faster and get capital to small-business owners quicker. We’ve made financing more accessible with Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital. Instead of searching for a banker, Valley entrepreneurs can now visit SBA’s website, answer 12 questions about their company and hear back from local lenders in 48 hours.

The SBA helped the government make bold improvements in awarding prime contracts. Small, disadvantaged firms in the Fresno district received more than $71 million in federal work the past 12 months via SBA’s 8a Business Development program. Nationally, 25.75 percent of federal spending (more than $90 billion) went to small businesses in 2016, and, for the first time, the federal government met its 5 percent goal for contracting with women-owned companies.

Bonding is a key requirement when working on these government projects.

SBA surety bonds help small businesses having difficulty obtaining bonding and those needing assistance to bid on larger jobs. SBA guaranteed more than $57 million in bonds for small businesses in the Fresno district the past year, a 30 percent increase over 2015.

As entrepreneurs look at opportunities for 2017, SBA-funded counseling centers can help them get ready to grow and expand. The SBA’s network of resource partners served more than 1.4 million businesses across the country in the past fiscal year. In the Valley and Central Coast, SBA’s Fresno district works with University of California, Merced, Small Business Development Center Regional Network; the Service Corps of Retired Executives; the Veteran Business Outreach Center; and the Women’s Business Center.

These organizations provide free consulting, counseling and mentoring to business owners. Entrepreneurs can visit SBA’s web page at to find the counseling resource closest to them.

As part of the SBA’s commitment to make our programs more accessible, the Fresno district office signed agreements with organizations across the Valley last year. Our new partnerships with the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, the Tulare Public Library, Fresno Metro Ministries and others will help the SBA reach more entrepreneurs in the Valley’s disadvantaged, rural and underserved communities.

Increasing veteran entrepreneurship is a priority for the SBA. Those who served in the military are significantly more likely than civilians to become small business owners. So in partnership with the Department of Defense, the SBA provides the Boots to Business program.

These intensive, 16-hour workshops teach business ownership to service members who are transitioning to civilian life. The Fresno office taught 12 of these two-day classes last year to active-duty military personnel stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and the Presidio of Monterey.

Last month the SBA also provided the Boots to Business – Reboot, a full day of training in Fresno for veterans and military spouses from every era. It’s the first time this class has been offered in the Valley, and part of the SBA’s ongoing commitment to support veterans interested in owning a small business.

As December drew to a close, the SBA celebrated the successes of entrepreneurs across the San Joaquin Valley who used our capital, counseling and contracting initiatives to start and grow their companies last year. Looking to 2017, the SBA will continue making our programs and services smart, bold and accessible – because when small businesses succeed, this region and our nation do, too.

Donna Davis is the SBA’s administrator for Region IX, covering California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. For more information on SBA programs, visit