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Tom Salisbury: We all play role in success of small businesses

Tom Salisbury
Special to Gannett Kansas
Tom Salisbury

The story of our small businesses in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa (Region 7) in the last federal fiscal year can be summed up by saying our community of small business owners have been weathering waves of unexpected storms.

Who knew that a global pandemic would affect us? Who could have imagined a “derecho” of straight-line winds blowing through Iowa would turn out to be the largest storm disaster in SBA’s history?

Like small rafts pitted against an unruly sea, small businesses confronted and still are encountering oversized waves that just seem to endlessly overwhelm them, forcing them to make changes and adjustments in a world outside their control.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, a tugboat-sized federal agency, which has been there to help small businesses since 1953, was tasked to launch counseling lifeboats and financial lifelines as never before.

The Cares Act of 2020 that was approved by the U.S. Congress and the president raised the SBA’s obligation to small businesses significantly. We ramped up and acted fast. I believe no other agency of the federal government could have cared any more and worked as hard with our financial and counseling resources than the SBA.

All the while, our small agency continued its regular lending support, counseling and training in support of small businesses.

The SBA’s impact on small businesses and their ability to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters is evidenced not only by the number of Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans approved since March, but through our regular 7(a), 504 and microlending programs as well.

Nationally, the SBA disbursed over $750 billion dollars last fiscal year in all programs combined. In our region, we helped 349,681 small businesses with more than $23 billion. In addition, as of Nov. 3, the SBA has approved 681 disaster recovery loans totaling $21,148,500 in Iowa because of the derecho disaster declaration.

And so it goes. EIDL pandemic loans are still available and still being processed. The SBA has begun the process of forgiving the mountain of PPP loans used appropriately. I can say I truly believe that together, small businesses, the SBA, our lending partners and our resource partners have contributed substantially to stabilize the American economy.

Sadly, lives and livelihoods have been lost due to COVID-19 and the derecho. But the people of our region survived the Dust Bowl, wars and being in tornado alley, and we will survive this. Someday, the pandemic will be defeated, and we will continue to rebuild … which brings me to my point.

It is more critical now than ever before to support small businesses in every aspect. Do not wait for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28 to buy from your local and regional small businesses.

Shop early and shop often. Shop as big as you can!

Many small retail shops have pivoted to online marketplaces with SBA assistance. Look for them. Check out where your purchases originate. Make sure you are supporting the return of our small businesses and the health of our communities.

It is more important now than ever before and you can play a big, big part. This storm, too, will pass. What is left is what we make it.

Tom Salisbury serves as the Region 7 Regional Administrator for SBA’s states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.