As 2019 draws close, it’s time to look back at the vibrant business successes and job growth in the Orange County/Inland Empire region over the past year and also to use this opportunity to thank all the entrepreneurs, business owners, employers and resource partners for making a tremendous impact in their communities.
We’ve enjoyed a strong economy with job creation well exceeding expectations, continued wage growth with unemployment numbers at historic lows. High optimism in the small business community with business starts, lending numbers and government contracts are bearing that out. The region ranks among the best locations to develop a successful small business into an economic powerhouse and the SBA continues to innovate and improve processes by leveraging enhanced technologies such as Lender Match and www.Certify.SBA.gov.
To name a few noteworthy items from 2019, the Orange County Inland Empire SBA ushered in the seven month long Emerging Leaders Initiative for executives of small businesses poised for growth and graduated 15 impressive business owners from diverse industries and backgrounds. During the agency’s annual Small Business Week awards program, we were proud to celebrate and recognize one state and 10 district award winners celebrating manufacturers, young entrepreneurs, technology firms, businesses that help build our infrastructure and critical collaborators such as cities and chambers of commerce, all playing a role in the success of the region. We were also fortunate to have a local winner from SBA’s Makerspace Training, Collaboration and Hiring Pilot Competition which was awarded $100,000 to provide advanced manufacturing and maker skills. One of 60 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition winners supporting startups and STEM-focused entrepreneurs was awarded $50,000 here locally which will be used to educate and mentor women entrepreneurs as they compete for SBIR/STTR funds for innovative opportunities across federal agencies.
Looking forward to 2020, we are excited to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to increase opportunities in rural communities and Opportunity Zones, which expand from our Historically Underutilized Business Zones. We will also be bringing in a new online learning platform called Ascent in a collaborative effort with the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury for women business owners who want to grow their existing businesses.
Thank you for allowing us to help power your dream of starting, growing, or expanding your small business in Orange County and the Inland Empire. We look forward to a prosperous 2020 and hope to hear from you in the new year.
J. Adalberto Quijada is the district director of U.S. Small Business Administration of Orange County/Inland Empire.