By Maria Contreras-Sweet
It has been an exhilarating first 100 days on the job. When I was sworn in as SBA Administrator in April, I promised to “get more loans into the hands of entrepreneurs who reflect the diversity of America by making it easier for community banks and microlenders to become our partners.”
Following up on this promise, I recently announced a transformative new plan to automate SBA lending and streamline and simplify the agency’s underwriting process to attract more lending partners and open up new markets for small business owners who need capital to expand and grow. Days after this announcement, which will ease the burdens on lenders approving small-dollar loans to entrepreneurs, I appeared at a Clinton Global Initiative conference in Denver to help announce an exciting commitment called the Century Club. Eight Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) each pledged to make at least 100 small business loans a year for the next 10 years, which will inject $1 billion of additional capital into America’s small business ecosystem.
Last week, we continued our progress in expanding access to capital. At the White House, I joined President Obama to announce a new initiative called SupplierPay. More than two dozen major corporations pledged to pay their small business suppliers faster and offer other creative financing solutions to get entrepreneurs access to affordable working capital so they have the payment certainty to make new hires and grow their companies.
We’ve also been focused on creating new opportunities for our veterans who wish to translate their military leadership skills into opportunities to serve their country as civilian job creators. We “rebooted” our popular Boots to Business;entrepreneurship program – a two-day crash course in starting a small business followed by an eight-week, instructor-led online course. We’re now conducting this program for transitioning service members at more than 200 military installations worldwide. And last week at the White House, we expanded this initiative to serve veterans who’ve already transitioned out.
At Twitter headquarters, the SBA launched a new competition for entities – university incubators or local nonprofits – that help seed start-ups by offering up office space, mentoring, networking, business-plan assistance, and sometimes startup capital, too. We’re exporting the Silicon Valley support model to communities in Middle America. The competition will fund up to 50 accelerators that are focused on key industries like clean energy and health care, as well as those focused on underserved populations, including women entrepreneurs, minorities, and small business owners in distressed urban and rural areas.
In recognition of the reality that there are still communities disproportionately struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession, I also launched Scale-Up America – another competitive program that will bring intensive SBA assistance to up to 14 cities with strong small business growth potential. We’re excited about this program, because more than 90 percent of new jobs generated by small businesses come from the expansion of existing businesses.
Finally, as an immigrant myself, I was proud to represent the United States in El Salvador to meet with the country’s new leadership and recognize the peaceful succession of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén. I had the opportunity to meet with Salvadoran small business owners, who provide 70 percent of the country’s jobs, and promote the bilateral Partnership for Growth plan signed by both nations in recognition of the increasingly important role Latin American nations are playing in the global economy.
These first 100 days have been a whirlwind, and I am buoyed by the energy and optimism of all the entrepreneurs I’ve met in cities across America. There’s still so much more to do. I hope you’ll contact me on Twitter; @MCS4biz to keep the dialogue going as we continue our forward momentum into the fall.
Maria Contreras-Sweet was the 24th Administrator of the Small Business Administration. She was formerly the executive chairwoman and founder of ProAmérica Bank, a commercial bank focusing on small to mid-sized businesses with a specialty in the Latino community. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Contreras-Sweet immigrated to Los Angeles, California and has since been involved in both the private sector founding a private equity firm and in public service as the California Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing under Governor Gray Davis. On January 15, 2014, she was nominated by President Barack Obama to join his Cabinet as head of the Small Business Administration. She was confirmed as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration by voice vote on March 27, 2014. She assumed role of her position as Administrator of the Small Business Administration on April 7, 2014.