Known for its technical assistance, the SBA offers free counseling, advice and information on starting, better operating or expanding a business. Assistance comes through one-on-one meetings, through training, counseling and business-development programs.
Partnerships are something Johns and local District Director Carl Knoblock stress are very important.
“Resource partners are key to bringing services to the table as well as serving as outreach sources,” said Johns. “We are always looking for new partners and a ways to spread the word about our services. Faith-based and community organizations serve as good sources. We want to form strategic alliances with groups not just locally but nationally as well.”
Knoblock listed the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania State, the Penn State Data Center, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance/Business Resource Center, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of Business and Industry as a few local resources.
While outlining resources, Johns listed Pittsburgh as having a strong Senior Core of Retired Executive Center, two Women’s Business Centers at Chatham University, E-Magnify at Seton Hill, and the area Small Business Development Centers.
When questioned about programs for young people interested in entrepreneurship, Johns indicated that a pilot program is being initiated in some regions in conjunction with the Department of Labor and being tried out at Job Corp sites.
Pittsburgh is just one of the many stops Johns and senior SBA officials are making as they travel the country spreading the word about the President’s messages from the State of the Union, as well as the resources offered by the SBA to help small business owners and entrepreneurs—particularly those in underserved communities—succeed as part of the Administration’s efforts to help strengthen the middle class.
Johns, nominated by President Barak Obama has been deputy administrator since 2010. Her responsibilities include managing the agency and developing programs and policies. During her tenure, it is reported that she has led the SBA for the past two years in record breaking lending, supporting more than $30 billion in loans annually. She works with the President’s senior advisors at the White House ensuring that more federal contracts are awarded to small businesses. She also serves as the chair of the President’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development.
Committed to the SBA mission of helping small businesses, Knoblock said he does so by using SBA programs: government contracting, guarantor of loans, advocacy, disaster assistance, and technical assistance. The Arizona native is known for his dedication and deep passion of helping small businesses succeed and create economic development in the region.
A former entrepreneur and retired Navy vet, he uses his expertise and knowledge to direct local entrepreneurs at all levels.
Both Johns and Knoblock think this is a good time to start a business as the economic recovery takes root.
“The Pittsburgh region has good things going on and now is the time to connect with the SBA and use the skill sets that you have,” said Johns.