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Supporting & Empowering AAPI Small Business Owners

Last month, I had the pleasure of addressing a gathering of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) small business owners and leaders from across the nation at the White House.

As President Obama has said, one of America’s greatest strengths has “always been our ability to attract talented, hardworking people who believe in this country, who want to help make it stronger,” and I believe that this directly relates to the AAPI community.  Just look at the numbers—AAPI small businesses have created nearly 2.3 million jobs and pumped over $500 billion dollars into our economy.

These are business owners like Jeffrey Wang. Mr. Wang immigrated to New York from Taiwan, and like all good New Yorkers was in hot pursuit of the perfect bagel. He turned this passion into a business and ultimately went on to own and operate several shops on Long Island. About 10 years ago, Mr. Wang moved to Portland and quickly realized he couldn’t find a good kosher bagel. Using an SBA loan, Mr. Wang built Kettleman’s Bagels and Bakery and today is supplying Whole Foods, Sysco and corporate cafeterias , including Nike and Intel.

Another amazing story involves Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita. Dr. Fujita always dreamed of running his own business and started Quality Electrodynamics which makes cutting edge MRI equipment.  SBA worked with his company through our Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and today Dr. Fujita’s company is growing, hiring and diversifying.

Stories like these help us to re-tool and re-shape our programs to better work for small business owners. In my travels around the country, I can see that the economy is growing stronger, but we know that challenges still remain, particularly for smaller loans and loans to underserved communities. To address this, SBA is focused on what we call a “More Doors, More Dollars” approach. The goal is to make it so that no matter what door a business walks in, whether it’s their community bank, a CDFI, a micro lender or a CDC, they will have the ability to get the kind of loan and help they need. This is exactly what our Community Advantage program addresses. 

We’ve also revamped our Small Loan Advantage program, which is aimed at expanding access to our 7(a) product for loans under $350,000. We eliminated more than 100 pages of paperwork that lenders and borrowers previously had to review and fill out.

We know that the road to recovery is not over, and there is more work to be done, but we know that it is the can-do spirit of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners that are helping us get there. 

Marie C. Johns is Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).