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Why the SBA is America’s Best-Kept Secret for Economic Development – Ashley D. Bell, Region lV Administrator

The SBA, also known as the U.S. Small Business Administration, might just be the best-kept secret in the Federal Government. This agency provides support exclusively to entrepreneurs and small businesses by offering opportunities for business education, mentorship, and capital lending. If you haven’t heard of this organization before now, then you’ll want to pay close attention to what our next guest has to say. Today we speak with Ashley D. Bell, the 45th regional administrator for the SBA’s 4th region which oversees eight southeastern states.

Ashley grew up in Gainesville, Georgia about an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta. He got his start in politics at age 27 when he was elected Hall County Commissioner. In addition to politics, Ashley tells us that he owned a chain of retail stores in Hall county while he was attending law school at UGA. After graduating from UGA and passing the Bar, he began his private law practice in downtown Atlanta. This time last year he was appointed as the SBA’s 45th regional administrator of the 4th region overseeing the southeast by the Trump administration.

“You don’t really know about the SBA, until you think you need the SBA,” says Ashley. Luckily, for small business owners and entrepreneurs, the SBA focuses on the 3 C’s.

  • Provide Counseling: The SBA as given free counseling services to over 250,000 annually. Many people in our economy are very good at what they do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the training to run a business. Ashley says, “When you don’t have an MBA, you have the SBA.”
  • Get Contracts: Assisting entrepreneurs with procuring federal contracts is a great way to have the freedom to run your own business regardless on the economic landscape.
  • Access to Capital: Many people have no idea where to start when it comes to building capital for their small business. SBA loans are great option. In this new age of business, loans come wit training and assistance. You not only gain a financial backer, you gain a partner. If you’re not ready for a big loan, then check out the SBA’s micro-loan services.

Georgia has great leadership at all levels who continue to make great decisions that encourage great economic growth in the state according to Ashley. However, even in a great economy, there are challenges, and its the SBA’s goal to fill in the gaps. That’s why there are 17 small business development centers in convenient locations all around the state. The SBA partners with the university system of Georgia to create these centers, and work with SCORE participants who want to lend their entrepreneurial knowledge to the next generation.

As for the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs in Georgia? Ashley recommend looking to federal contracting. With help from PTAC, figuring out federal procurement has never been easier. Another goal that Ashley has for the SBA is to better reach the under-served populations like minority owned businesses, women owned businesses, veterans, and businesses in HUB zones. That means bringing awareness to the SBA’s 8(a) Program and exploring capital lending options on the micro level.

For more information, check out Atlanta’s SBA office located in Peachtree Center.

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