Amato speaks to small business community

Amato speaks to small business community

Amato speaks to small business community

“I’m not a federal employee by any stretch of the imagination.”

Joe Amato is, however, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) new district director for the state of Nevada. Amato recently spent some time touring Nevada’s rural areas and talking with small business owners.

Amato, who hails from New York City, calls himself “an entrepreneur from the womb.” He started his first business at the tender age of 17 and has been involved in a number of successful deals over the past 30 years. He also served as executive director of a Small Business Development Center in Virginia.

He said he had his choice of five states for directorship, and he chose Nevada because he saw a lot of potential in the state for small business development. “Nevada’s just getting started,” he said.

“There are certain things that the small business community can provide ... that no one else can provide at arm’s length,” he said.

Amato’s message generally focused on the need for educating borrowers and business owners and connecting potential borrowers to lenders, either conventional or alternative.

Educating borrowers

“Businesses succeed or fail based on the information that they hold as they attempt to start their business,” he said. “Businesses don’t fail because of lack of money. They fail because of bad decisions that cost them money. That puts them out of business.”

He said that borrowers also need training in how to communicate with lenders so they see the deal’s true worth. To do that, both borrowers and lenders need to speak the same language.

“It’s an educational process,” he said.

One trait successful business owners share is the ability to get “ahead of the curve for what they need to do to succeed,” Amato said. Programs like Senior Corps of Retired Entrepreneurs (SCORE) provide free mentoring to small business owners to give them the benefit of experience. Amato also said he wanted to bring a Women’s Business Center to northern Nevada as well.

Connecting borrowers to lenders

Lending and borrowing has changed considerably in the 30 years since he started his first business, Amato said. Where an entrepreneur used to speak directly to the person involved in a branch’s lending, those decisions take place much higher up on the ladder today.

He said banks aren’t doing enough to support or encourage small businesses, either. “I’ve had talks with most of the banks in the state, and they’re not doing their job,” he said. “Not the way I would like to see them doing their job.”

“I don’t want to upset the banks that exist, but I don’t mind prodding them.”

A borrower in a rural area may have only a small handful of lenders willing to work with them. Amato said the SBA can help connect borrowers with both conventional and alternative lenders through programs available through the USDA. He said he is also looking into creating a “roadmap” online program to guide people interested in starting a small business.

“We want to do whatever we can to be better at informing your borrowing base,” he said to the lenders in attendance. “And we want to do everything we can to inform you as a borrower. I think, at the end of the day, everybody wins.”