According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the four-state area encompassing Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa has about 1.2 million small businesses employing 2.7 million people.
That area, the SBA’s Region VII, has a new leader to make sure Midwestern small businesses have knowledge of and access to resources the SBA provides.
Tom Salisbury has been appointed regional administrator of Region VII, with headquarters in Kansas City. He leads a team of 37 employees working to help strengthen and grow small businesses. Additionally, the SBA oversees more than 85 grantee resource partner sites within the region, which provide free or low-cost small business counseling, training and mentoring services.
Salisbury’s background has primed him for his new position. For seven years, Salisbury worked in Kansas City as the small business liaison for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). He has spent much of the rest of his career in the lending industry, most recently as a vice president with UMB Bank.
Traveling the region, Salisbury already is busy promoting the SBA, which in 2017 backed more than 2,500 loans to small businesses, adding up to over $1 billion in funding.
“This is something where you can say government does good stuff,” he said.
The following is an interview with Salisbury, edited for length.
As the new regional administrator, what are your responsibilities?
Salisbury: We are charged with the delivery of programs, services and resources that emanate from Washington, D.C. Our job is to carry out those initiatives and mandates. Our offices provide program training and support to hundreds of SBA participating program lender institutions and SBA-financed microlenders, who loan federally guaranteed capital to small businesses.
What are some of the programs and services for which you are responsible?
Salisbury: We oversee the services of small business development centers, women’s business centers, a veterans business resource center and SCORE Mentor chapters. These help people begin to navigate starting small businesses or growing their business. They are extremely essential to us because they are places we can’t be every day. There are 85 of these around the state.
Most of these SBDCs have a connection with an educational campus nearby. Any individual can walk in, call on the phone or go online and say, “I have an idea, and I want to start a winery.” At that point, they can engage, and we can counsel them on how to develop a business plan, how to find resources on how to create that business and get training on the subject.
In addition, SBA district offices teach small businesses how to participate in federal contracting opportunities and administer the federal contracting program.
In the last year, there were over 54,000 people who availed themselves of one or more of our services. These are the kinds of things the SBA is seeking to achieve.
What are your priorities for Region VII?
Salisbury: We want to get the word out, even in metropolitan areas, about the SBA and the programs and resources available to small businesses and entrepreneurs. We want to make sure that the rural marketplaces are aware of what the SBA can bring to the table, as well. We’ve had a hiring freeze and a buyout, but we are embarking on an initiative to add to our offices.
How has your background in the lending sector prepared you for your current position?
Salisbury: It has prepared me very well. I have been in and around small business my entire life. I watched my dad and mom sit at the dining room table doing all the things involved in running a small business.
My degree is in education, but I turned to the small business sector. The lending aspect is something I picked up while at UMB.
Small businesses provide 54.8 percent of the jobs in region. While big businesses are great … the stability in job creation is small businesses.
What is the greatest challenge you face on the job?
Salisbury: To marshal our resources and put them to the best possible use and let the population know that there is a government agency that is available to them as a resource partner to assist them in achieving their dream. We are truly interested in people being successful, having steady income and growing.