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Opinion: Women owners key to small-business economy

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Since it is Women’s History Month, I would like to pose a question: What do 6,111 women in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa all have in common?

They each visited a Women’s Business Center in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Region 7 during fiscal 2018 and are now starting or operating a business.

Nationally, the SBA supports 114 WBCs that contribute to tremendous growth for the businesses they serve – creating $1.7 billion in revenue and 17,000 new jobs. Counseling, training and mentorship through other SBA resource partners including Small Business Development Centers, SCORE chapters and the SBA’s Woman Owned Small Business program helped even more women succeed as entrepreneurs.

These women are on the forefront of small-business growth, among the 39 percent of all privately held firms that are majority-owned by women. As SBA Administrator Linda McMahon noted in congressional testimony last month, women represent the fastest-growing segment of small businesses.

The SBA supports women in a variety of ways and is adding new programs to keep up with the demand for specialized training, mentoring and financing. These services can be real game changers for small-business owners like Kimberly Coad, of Salina, Kansas.

A dental assistant instructor, Coad accessed the women’s programs at her local SBA office, secured SCORE mentoring, and took advantage of the SBDC’s counseling and training resources to become an entrepreneur. The programs helped Coad create Compass Medical Provider in 2010, a company that aimed to provide better dental service to servicemen and servicewomen.

She has grown it into an enterprise that provides various health care services for military personnel and other government and public workers both at clinics and at her mobile units. She earned certifications through the SBA’s women-owned small business program and business development program, which helped her capture federal subcontracting and contracting opportunities. The company has grown to 10 professional employees as well as contracted with part-time professional employees in mobile units coast to coast.

SBA programs and services really are for every life cycle of a business. After an entrepreneur starts a business, the SBA continues to offer services to them. In Coad’s case, the SBA helped her evaluate her readiness for government contracting, register as a government contractor, navigate the federal rules and qualify for contracts through small-business set-aside programs.

The SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development tracks the government’s goal of having 5 percent of all federal contracting dollars awarded to women-owned small businesses. A total of $20.8 billion in prime government contracts were awarded to 19,523 women-owned small businesses, supporting more than 115,000 jobs in fiscal 2017. More than 82,000 jobs were created or supported through the $15 billion in federal subcontracting.

Women who own 51 percent or more of their small business may be certified as eligible to bid on federal contracts by visiting SBA.gov/wosb.

The SBA recognizes that women have contributed greatly to small-business history, and that’s why we fully support, promote and endorse women entrepreneurs through free and low-cost programs.

Tom Salisbury is the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Region VII, which covers Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. He previously worked as the small-business liaison for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and in lending for UMB Bank. Salisbury can be reached at thomas.salisbury@sba.gov.

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