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Small businesses honored

Mass. firms among those singled out during week-long event

Martin Desmarais
Small businesses honored
"Small businesses are the anchor of the American economy, creating two out of three new jobs and employing half of the private workforce. With this week we celebrate the mom and pop shops and the future Fortune 500s — those small businesses that propel their local communities and are picking up speed at the state and national level. Many of these small businesses are poised for growth and ready to do great things.” — Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator (Photo: Photo: Courtesy SBA)

Last week was President Barack Obama’s last National Small Business Week and he took the opportunity to cement his economic legacy. Events around the country — and in Massachusetts — helped to highlight the strong state of the small business sector during the last eight years.

Obama was quick to point out the critical role small businesses play in the U.S. economy, crediting the sector for the several-year-long job growth.

“Responsible for creating nearly two-thirds of net new jobs in the United States each year and employing more than half of all Americans, small businesses have always been a vital part of our country’s economy. As outlets for creativity and ingenuity, small businesses do more than create jobs and foster growth — they represent the spirit that has always driven our nation forward,” Obama said, speaking from the White House April 29. “Throughout National Small Business Week, we celebrate the irreplaceable role these enterprises play in our national life by pledging to support them and equip them with the tools and resources they need to succeed.”

Author: Photo: Courtesy SBA“Last year, the SBA surpassed our record for trade finance, supporting $3.3 billion in export sales. I believe we can do even more to help our small businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside our borders. Small businesses are increasingly engaging in the ever evolving global market place.” — Bob Nelson, SBA Massachusetts District Director

The president pointed to a number of policies his administration has enacted to back small business growth, including 18 different tax cuts for small businesses, tax credit of up to 50 percent for some small businesses as part of the Affordable Care Act, and a dozen agreements with other countries to try and help boost small business exports.

He also has some strong numbers to tout, showing the lucrative government work thrown small businesses’ way.

“During fiscal year 2015, we awarded an all-time high of more than a quarter of eligible federal contracts to small businesses, and we made great strides in ensuring more government contracts are given to women-owned small businesses — nearly $18 billion worth,” said Obama.

Obama has also been praised for pushing the launch of next-generation manufacturing hubs and generally streamlining the process of starting a small business with online entrepreneurial tools and resources with the Startup in a Day initiative.

Entrepreneurial spirit

While the efforts have proven fruitful for small businesses, economic pundits point out that Obama can also thank the country’s entrepreneurs for best embodying the economic impact of his policies. The bailouts and economic stimulus efforts after the 2008 bottom emboldened many small businesses to rise and become the main force to propel the country out of recession. From 2007 to 2009, 8 million jobs were lost, but small business hiring since has driven a record period of job growth. In addition, these small businesses born out of the recession feature a pragmatism that allows them to weather economic storms more so than the flashy startup exuberance that characterized the prior technology boom. Today’s startups are changing the economy with new innovation and altering the nature of employment in the process.

Long the government’s right hand in small business backing, the U.S. Small Business Administration also took center stage during National Small Business Week.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet reiterated often the cornerstone status of the country’s 28 million small businesses and the fact that it is easy — but neglectful — to forget that every large business starts small.

“Small business are the anchor of the American economy, creating two out of three new jobs and employing half of the private workforce. With this week we celebrate the mom and pop shops and the future Fortune 500s — those small business that propel their local communities and are picking up speed at the state and national level. Many of these small businesses are poised for growth and ready to do great things,” Contreras-Sweet said.

Nationwide observance

National Small Business Week is part of the May observance of national small business month. The week has been celebrated since 1963 and is spearheaded by the SBA. The celebration of small business has evolved into a country-wide slate of events and awards honoring successful small businesses. Each state has a Small Business Person of the Year and the SBA crowns a national winner in Washington, with the award this year going to Equator Coffees & Teas out of San Rafael, Calif. Other events were held in Denver, New York, Phoenix and Oakland.

Locally, Massachusetts had a week-long slate of events to celebrate National Small Business Week, culminating in the Massachusetts SBA office’s award luncheon, which was held on May 6.

SBA Massachusetts District Director Bob Nelson used his small business week platform to push the agency’s efforts to increasing small business exports.

“Last year, the SBA surpassed our record for trade finance, supporting $3.3 billion in export sales. I believe we can do even more to help our small businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside our borders,” Nelson said. “Small businesses are increasingly engaging in the ever evolving global market place. [The SBA] can transform more small businesses to become exporters and expand their export sales. In the process, these small businesses will create jobs and strengthen their communities.”

Massachusetts highlighted a “Small Business Exporter of the Year” — the Chamberlain Group, a surgical training device company in Great Barrington, Mass.

The “Small Business Person of the Year” award went to StratComm Inc. founder, president and CEO, Robert George.

Also, honored is a “Minority-Owned Business of the Year,” which this year went to Guardian Healthcare, started and run by Jose and Zoraida de la Rosa out of Jamaica Plain.

Founded in 2008, Guardian Healthcare provides nursing, therapy services, case management and certified home health aides. The company expanded offices to Springfield in 2011, Lawrence in 2013 and Brockton in 2014.

The husband and wife pair started Guardian Healthcare out of their home and have grown the business from three employees in 2010 to 180 employees today.

“Through Guardian Healthcare — Jose and Zoraida have been able to provide customized caretaker services with cultural competence, especially in the Hispanic/Latino community. Communities are strengthened by the jobs they have created and the unique services that benefit our society as a whole,” said SBA District Director Nelson.

Other awards included: China Blossom from North Andover as “Family Owned Business of the Year”; Holly Christensen founder of Dune Jewelry in Hyde Park as “Women Small Business Owner of the Year”; Stoneham’s NRICH Inc. as “Microenterprise of the Year”; Fireking Baking Company of Braintree as “Small Business Manufacturer of the Year”; Berkshire Bank as “Financial Services Champion”; and Watermark Environmental Inc. in Lowell as “8(a) Graduate of the Year.”