Small Business Week Ends, a Great Success

The Small Business Administration is ending its celebration of National Small Business Week with events in Washington, D.C., that serve as a swan song of sorts for SBA Administrator Karen Mills.

Mills has been a strong leader for the SBA at a critical time, strengthening the agency's role as a source of credit for small businesses when they needed it the most. SBA lenders credit her with bringing in experienced bankers to run its lending programs, being a good listener, and streamlining agency processes.

Mills will soon be headed back to Maine, however, and there's no word yet on who will replace her. Jeanne Hulit, who heads the SBA's Office of Capital Access, also is leaving the agency.

Dave Rader, who heads Wells Fargo's SBA loan division, is eager to meet the new team who'll lead the agency's lending programs, but he isn't worried about the SBA's future.

"The program's in good shape from our perspective," he said.

Plus, he added, the SBA career staff "tends to elevate their game a bit" during transition periods.

Wells Fargo has elevated its own game this year as far as SBA lending -- through May, it's made $862 million in loans this fiscal year through the SBA's flagship 7(a) loan program, up 17 percent compared with the same period last year. For last year as a whole, Wells Fargo made more than $1.24 billion in 7(a) loans, earning it the SBA's "Large 7(a) Loan Lender of the Year Award."

Much of Friday's activities involved giving out awards to small businesses as well as partners in the agency's programs, such as Wells Fargo.

The big award -- National Small Business Person of the Year -- went to John Stonecipher, president of Guidance Aviation in Prescott, Ariz. This 15-year-old high-altitude flight school employs 55 people, and is the culmination of Stonecipher's lifelong fascination with helicopters. He was certified to fly by 18, and got his instructor's certificate when he was 19.
 

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