Communication and access to capital were the top issues for participants at the White House Business Council Roundtable that was heavily focused on tribal concerns of the South Sound.

The private event held today at University of Washington Tacoma attracted representatives from about half a dozen tribes who discussed their business concerns with Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Small Business Administration Assistant Associate Administrator Calvin Goings and Chris James, assistant administrator for the Office of Native American Affairs at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“This is about sustainable recovery. This is about helping businesses grow and expand,” said Strickland, who serves on the SBA Council on Underserved Communities. “It was nice to hear from some of these smaller micro-businesses. It still comes back to communication (and) helping them understand all the services available.”

James said a desire for increased communication between the tribes and SBA leaders is a common theme throughout the nation.

“Every time we sit down with tribal leadership and have a frank, honest conversation, it's communication that is key,” he said. “There are some common themes, but each area is unique. And every time you have these conversations, you see the uniqueness of the area.”

James said he, Goings and Strickland basically sat back and just listened to the business owners.

“We gave the folks an opportunity to talk to us about any issues they may have,” he said.

Goings said the event was focused on tribal businesses because they are important to the economic success of the region. However, they don't always have an opportunity to speak with SBA leaders.

“We have a lot of tribally based businesses. How do we at SBA make sure our programs and our training align with those needs?” Goings asked. “The bottom line is how do we help small businesses start, grow and succeed. It was a great opportunity.”

Because access to capital seems to be important for many of these business owners, and others throughout the area, Goings made sure to discuss the recent changes SBA has made to its Small Loan Advantage program. 

Changes within the program include increasing the maximum loan amount from $250,000 to $350,000 and expanding it from Preferred Lender Program Lenders to all SBA participating lenders.

In addition, all loan applications are credit-scored by SBA prior to approval or issuance of a loan number and lenders will follow the same closing and disbursement procedures and documentation they use for similar non-SBA guaranteed commercial loans.