The newly named regional administrator for the Small Business Administration, Matt Varilek, Denver, and newly promoted District Director Michael Gallagher, Minot, completed four days of travel throughout western North Dakota on Thursday.
The purpose, said Varilek, was to visit with various lenders in the state and to see first hand the immense development in the Bakken oil fields.
"It's evolving fast. It's fascinating to see how the technology is changing and all the energy production," said Varilek. "We wanted to get a feel of what is happening with the Bakken. It's a great amount of activity. It's a national and international phenomenon what's going on out there. Also, we got to meet with individual businesses and some of our lending a resource partners to get an on-the-ground sense of how we are doing."
The SBA offers guarantees on a variety of loans, both large and small. In fiscal year 2013 the national total approached $29 billion. North Dakota loan support totaled over $95 million through 47 different lenders. Much of the SBA approved loans went to the northwestern part of the state.
"There's a massive amount of money at play in the energy industry," said Gallagher. "There's a lot of cash out there and a lot of businesses that don't need the SBA. A lot of our applications come from the service industries which they do need - doctors, chiropractors, dentists and restaurants. Most of the commercial lending goes through banks. We provide a guarantee for the loan."
Another important function of the SBA, according to Varilek, has been to offer assistance through available disaster programs. For example, a number of Minot residents and business owners received SBA loans to help them recover from the 2011 flood.
"We are happy to make a helpful contribution to local economic growth," said Varilek. "Those loans, alongside FEMA and state resources, can be very helpful, especially getting businesses through tough times when cash flow can be reduced due to disasters. We can help get them back on their feet a little faster than they otherwise might."
Varilek and Gallagher cited the cooperation of area lenders, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Entrepreneurs) and SBA development centers for increasing the presence of SBA in the area.
"It's great to be out in the region where we are working, talking to partners," said Varilek. "We can't do any of this alone."
"We've made changes that are sensitive to the needs of small businesses," added Gallagher.
SBA Region VII, which Varilek directs, consists of North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Utah. It is the most rural of all regions of the SBA.