When most business people think of governmental agencies, words like “unwieldy” and “unresponsive” come to mind. However, the actions of the U.S. Small Business Administration has allowed another word to rise to the collective consciousness. That word is “entrepreneurial.”
Since its formation, The Small Business Administration (SBA) has been dedicated to the encouragement of growth for businesses of all sizes and the jobs this brings. The SBA is an especially powerful economic engine for minority and women owned business and one of the people responsible for this is Eugene Cornelius, Jr. He shared his thoughts on workforce diversity in a recent interview. In the process, he further reiterated why National Roofing Partners places great emphasis on building diversity in the workforce.
For Eugene Cornelius, It’s a Calling
Mr. Cornelius is the Deputy Associate Administrator for Field Operations for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He was appointed after serving as the Acting Regional Administrator for Region III that covers Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
As Deputy Associate Administrator, he provides senior leadership to over 42% of the agency’s budgeted workforce insuring the implementation of its overall goals, programs and operations. Mr. Cornelius is responsible for management and oversight of over 90 offices covering all 50 States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and U. S. Territories.
In addition to his domestic experience, he has international experience working on State Department initiatives in the Middle East with the Central Banks of Egypt and Bahrain, with the country of Tunisia in Northern Africa as well as Risk Management and Finance experience in China.
While these are the “facts” of his vast financial experience, there is another factor – equally important – which is not covered in his official resume. Gene Cornelius is a passionate advocate for minority-owned and women-owned businesses and his enthusiasm for these enterprises is palpable whether he’s talking about it across the table or across the country in a phone conversation.
“Economic empowerment is a strong motivation for me,” he said in a recent interview. “Our mission is to create jobs and reduce unemployment. This is much more than a job for me. It’s a calling!”
“While there are many advantages to being in the private sector, I feel I can make a difference in my role in the public sector,” he said. “I can walk around the corner and see a store that the SBA helped get financing and see the people working inside. Nobody can pay you enough for the satisfaction of that feeling!”
President Obama is a Driving Force
The Obama administration has enabled and encouraged the SBA to use its economic clout to drive economic growth among small businesses. Gene Cornelius, who has served the agency since 1999 and has seen Presidents from both parties managing the U.S. economy, believes the current administration has done a remarkable job.
“The President has proven himself as an economic leader,” he said. “The Small Business Act redefined credit and capital, reducing the cost of capital. We were therefore able to have a 20 percent increase of available capital across the country. This has positively affected every minority company.”
“President Obama has urged us to branch out into the under-served communities such as rural America,” Cornelius said. “He wants us to go to unfamiliar places, be bold and accessible. This mandate has completely redefined the service offered by the SBA and how we are doing things.”
“We were the best-kept secret in the federal government,” he chuckled. “We have 26,000 counselors out in the field and nobody knew that. Of the $500 billion U.S. budget, 23 percent is set aside for small businesses.”
“The SBA monitors all of these funds and to do this we had to be mobile and internet savvy,” he notes. “We had to renew our efforts to get our message out. We had never hit the goal of 23 percent until last year, but by being ‘bold and accessible’ we did.”
Realizing the Buying Power of Minority Communities
Led by Strategic Account Manager, Byron Stallworth, National Roofing Partners is committed to diversity in the workforce and has implemented several programs which encourage minority-owned and women-owned businesses to pursue opportunities in the building trades. Gene Cornelius is seeing the positive effects of other companies taking this tact.
“The private sector has come to realize the buying power of minority communities,” he said. “People tend to buy from people who look like them. Many companies have come to realize that splitting the pie makes it bigger for everyone.”
“Private sector capacity is affected by the supply chain the most,” he said. “They must have flexibility in their supply chain and have the opportunity build capacity without dramatically increasing inventory. Using minority businesses allows this to occur.”
“Today’s small businesses are tomorrow’s big businesses,” he concluded. “Companies such as Apple, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Famous Amos Cookies and hundreds more were originally funded by the SBA. The agency gave these companies access to capital and through hard work and innovation, they have flourished.”
If your company encourages diversity among suppliers and you have roofing and waterproofing projects, contact us for a no obligation estimate. National Roofing Partners has offices throughout the United States and is committed to diversity in our workforce.