Friend Or Foe?

Taking a look at the new head of the SBA

Having grown up watching his Mexican immigrant father, Hector Barreto Sr., build a successful restaurant in Kansas City, as well as found the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which today is the nation’s largest organization of Latino businesses, 40-year-old Hector V. Barreto Jr. is the newly appointed administrator of the Small Business Administration. Barreto feels he has an invaluable insight into the needs of minority business owners, who may be skeptical of the Bush administration. “I think the agency thus far has been very responsive to the needs of minority-owned businesses and we want to continue to grow that,” says Barreto. “[My] having grown up with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and having developed strong relationships over the years with African American, Asian American, and Native American business organizations, will help strengthen the SBA’s efforts to empower minority-owned businesses even further.”

The SBA will become more user-friendly and familiar, says Barreto. “One of the issues facing the SBA is that many of the 25 million small businesses in the United States don’t know about us. Many of them aren’t aware of what the agency does and the services we offer,” he continues. “We will reintroduce ourselves to small business owners across the country through outreach efforts in the form of advocacy and entrepreneurial development.”

Accessibility is one of Barreto’s main goals. “It will begin with extended office hours. Right now our offices are only open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., a time when business owners are running their businesses. So, we’re looking to expand these hours and possibly opening up on weekends,” promises Barreto. Making the SBA Website (www.sba.gov) more interactive and responsive is also on Barreto’s agenda. “We want to be able to provide 24-hour-a-day technical assistance.”

“I’ve often heard from other small business owners that the [SBA] process is cumbersome and complicated, that small businesses weren’t able to connect and develop one-on-one relationships with our representatives in the field. I think we can change this by simplifying the whole process, by simplifying the underwriting process, and by getting answers to small business owners quicker. I also want the SBA to provide the services small businesses want the way they want them provided.”

Having been a small business owner himself as the founder of Barreto Insurance & Financial Services, a 10-employee insurance firm in Los Angeles specializing in creating financial plans for both the business and private sector, Barreto says he knows firsthand the obstacles and concerns faced by small businesses owners. “We will deal with a lot of these issues, such as access to capital and information and looking closely at the area of government contracting.

“Small business is strengthened when the SBA’s programs and services result in job creation, revenue growth, and greater business longevity. For example, the agency, in cooperation with its community and financial partners, will use the Bush administration’s faith-based initiative to expand its programs and services through BusinessLINC and the Microloan, SBIC, WBC, and PRIME programs,” he says.

Barreto, who holds a bachelor’s degree in management and

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