Independence Day, Opportunity Zones & More- SBA Southeast Region

June 2019

u s small business administration
Ashley Bell



Ashley D. Bell

Region IV Administrator

U.S. Small Business Administration


Entrepreneurs Celebrating Independence Day

US flag

Entrepreneurship is the freedom to live a life of independence. America’s entrepreneurs represent our very own independent risk takers. It takes grit and determination start and run a small business. And it takes risk to produce profit. I have learned first-hand as an entrepreneur that taking risk often leads to mistakes, and mistakes always have a cost associated with them. This is where the U.S. Small Business Administration comes in. We want to help celebrate your Independence Day this year by helping you understand how the SBA can reduce your risk as an American entrepreneur.

America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence 243 years ago, but it took more than a decade for that dream to become reality. Small business owners earn that same independence through starting and running their own companies, and the SBA and its partners can help make that dream a reality on a much faster track.

Owning a business can mean personal and financial independence for you and your family. If you are thinking of starting a business, you may start the process by placing your ideas into a business plan. A toolkit is available here:  The next step would be to contact your local SBA district office. An SBA team member may help guide you to the next steps, which will vary depending on the type of business you are starting.

If you are an existing entrepreneur looking to gain further independence by taking your business to the next level, then the SBA stands by ready to assist.  Whether you are looking for capital or access to government contracting, the SBA has a resource for you. A major component of the SBA that many are not aware of is its counseling arm. No matter where you fall in the business lifecycle, the SBA has a resource to help steer you confidently to the next level. And the best part: it is all available at no cost.

Entrepreneurship is as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. We are excited to celebrate your independence with you as you lead your small business journey. We wish you a very Happy Independence Day. For the latest information, please follow us on Twitter @SBASoutheast.

Opportunity Zones in the Southeast

OZ Clayton County

The SBA and Clayton County, Georgia Economic Development recently collaborated efforts to deliver the first of its kind 2019 Opportunity Zone Summit. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, The White House, Clayton County Department of Economic Development, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and several other agencies partnered to launch this collaborative Federal Opportunity Zone Summit. Over 350 small businesses participated in the two-day event.

An Opportunity Zone is a community investment tool established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities. Clayton County has set aside funds to grant to small businesses as their down payment for a SBA-backed loan should they choose to relocate to Clayton County’s Opportunity Zone. The area is also located directly next to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, making exporting a reality for businesses located in the Opportunity Zone.

A portion of the Summit catered to existing 8(a) firms from across the Southeast who are actively seeking federal contracts in the SBA’s 9-year Business Development Program as well as private equity investors interested in investing in the Opportunity Zones across the United States. The Opportunity Zone located in Clayton County that overlaps as a HUBZone as well was toured by the participants on two buses.  All properties currently for sale within the zone were identified. The small business owners learned the advantages of moving their headquarters to the Opportunity Zone located in Clayton County.

Stay tuned for similar events happening across the region, so that you may learn the advantages of the Opportunity Zones near you. Follow @SBASoutheast on Twitter for the latest news. 

bus tour

SBA Regional Administrator Ashley D. Bell joins active 8(a) firms and private equity investors on a bus tour highlighting properties currently for sale in a designated Opportunity Zone/HUBZone in Clayton County, Georgia.

Local News From Your

SBA District Office

Thank you to these Administrative Officers from across the Southeast that help make everything possible at SBA!


L to R: Diane Haag (South Florida), Darlene Milhouse (Georgia), Jackie Gardner (North Florida), Linda Bennett (South Carolina), Tarvis Bethea (Mississippi), Tawana Farley (Region 4), David Walley (Tennessee)

Thomas Todt

Alabama District Office

Thomas (Tom) Todt, District Director


On Tuesday, June 18, 2019, the Alabama District Office along with the Troy University SBDC hosted its 3rd Rural Strong Event in Troy, AL. The event was well attended and provided participants with vital information regarding economic growth and development.


Troy, Alabama

Rural Strong 2
Tom Todt Speaking

Alabama District Director, Thomas Todt, addressing an engaged crowd of eager to learn attendees.

Wilfredo Gonzalez 2

North Florida District Office

Wilfredo J. Gonzalez, District Director


The North Florida District Office hosted Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton during his recent visit to the Orlando area. He offered remarks at the Disaster Media Training, and then toured a local Orlando business that received an economic injury loan. Pegasus Transportation almost closed due to the impacts on the travel and tourism industry post 9/11.  The business secured an economic injury loan through the SBA, and worked with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida to keep their business alive. Today, the business has grown and offers tours throughout Florida, as well as internationally.


Acting SBA Administrator Pilkerton with Fernando Pereira (Center), President of Pegasus Tours, and Wilfredo Gonzalez, SBA North Florida District Director.

The North Florida District Office Business Development staff conducted a conference for 8(a) Firms that are in the developmental stage of the program. The two-day conference held on the campus of the University of West Florida included a second day for 8(a) recruitment and a Mentor-Protégé Connection event open to all small businesses and large prime contractors. 

8a Conference

Pictured from left to right are : Jay Choi (BOS), Ken Hamilton (Supervisory BDS), Carmen Gonzalez (BOS), Leticia Clark (BOS), Derrick Willoughby (BOS) and Arnett Mayhew (Commercial Marketing Representative (CMR).

Victoria Guerrero

South Florida District Office

Victoria Guerrero, District Director

Last month, we hosted a free event in the City of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida to aid entrepreneurs in securing federal contracts. More than 250 local small business owners attended the “Drive 8(a) Recruitment Summit,” sponsored by Urban Pulse Direct (UPD) Smart Solutions. Our goal at the South Florida District is to help Florida small businesses grow and expand our portfolio of 8(a) firms. While the federal contracting process can be daunting, we’re here to help small businesses navigate the landscape. We were also joined by experts from the Small Business Development Center, SCORE and Women’s Business Center who also shared information on the advantages of federal contracting programs, what it takes to qualify, and how entrepreneurs can receive free small business assistance from their respective organizations.


SFDO District Director Victoria Guerrero and Public Affairs Specialist Heather Hines joined Drive 8a Event Sponsor Stacey Clarke, UPD chief marketing officer, for a selfie following 8(a) Recruitment Summit.

audience SFL

More than 250 local small business owners attended the May 22 Drive 8(a) Recruitment Summit, sponsored by Urban Pulse Direct (UPD) Smart Solutions.

BDS team SFL

SFDO Director Victoria Guerrero introduces members of the Business Development Team during Drive 8(a) Recruitment Summit.

Tom Joyner radio

SFDO BOS Gus Vergara and PIO Heather Hines (not pictured) pitched the District’s “Drive 8(a) Recruitment Summit” during an interview on Hot 105.1 with Rodney Baltimore, host of Miami’s syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show.

Terri Denison

Georgia District Office

Terri L. Denison, District Director

The Georgia District Office and the UGA Small Business Development Center’s Office of Minority Business Development are collaborating to bring workshops on the SBA’s 8(a) and HUBZone programs. 

The SBA 8(a) Business Development Program helps empower small disadvantaged businesses to operate at greater capacity via ‘set-aside’ and ‘sole source’ federal contracting opportunities.  The HUBZone Program facilitates federal contracting assistance to small businesses in located in economically distressed areas called Historically Underutilized Business Zones to promote job growth, capital investment, and economic development.

Upcoming sessions are being held as follows: 

  • July 10-Columbus, GA
  • August 7-Gainesville, GA
  • September 11-Statesboro, GA

For more information and registration, go the “Small Business Events” calendar at

Robert Coffey DDD

Kentucky District Office

Robert Coffey, Acting District Director



Kentucky Addresses Government Contracting Opportunities

 The Kentucky District Office collaborated with the PTAC Kentucky PTAC to perform a series of HUBZone Road Show training events, including an event on June 4 in the eastern Kentucky city of Morehead. The content is designed to raise awareness of HUBZone program benefits and strengthen the economy in these areas.

The KDO also did a 2-day workshop with the Elizabethtown SBDC in central Kentucky on government contacting. Entitled “Federal Proposal Preparation,” the event addressed proposal planning, bid/no bid decisions, RFP content, source selection, indirect rates and the proposal preparation process. Estimating templates were included.

BOS Cherie Guilford also performed two certification lunch and learn events in Louisville. One session focused on the WOSB and EDWOSB certification process, the other on VOSB and MBE certification.  

Janita Stewart

Mississippi District Office

Janita Stewart, District Director


In conjunction with the Office of Advocacy hosting a Regional Regulatory Reform Round Table in Jackson on Thursday, June 6th, the SBA National Ombudsman, Stefanie Wehagen, who also participated in the round table along with DD Janita Stewart, visited a couple of local small businesses.  The objective of the visits was to share directly with the small business owners the purpose of the Office of the National Ombudsman – what it is and does as it relates to helping small businesses when they experience excessive or unfair federal regulatory enforcement actions.  Businesses visited were the 2013 Mississippi SBPOY Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza and Ice Cream Joint, and the 2015 Mississippi SBPOY SOL Engineering Services LLC, graduate 8(a) firm.

try 3

Pictured are (from l to r): John Kelly, Case Management Specialist, Ofc of National Ombudsman; DD Janita Stewart; Jeff Good, Co-Owner, Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza and Ice Cream Joint; National Ombudsman Stefanie Wehagen; and BOS Joyce Conner.

The SBA Mississippi District was invited to participate in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Small Business Industry Day held on June 4th at its facility in Vicksburg. ERDC aggressively supports SBA’s 8(a) BD program and other small business programs.  ERDC is an integral component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and helps solve our nation’s most challenging problems in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources, and environmental sciences for the Army, Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and our nation’s public good.  This event, the first of its kind, provided a forum for outreach to small businesses and other strategic partners and gave a platform for agencies to share information about their programs and services.  It also allowed for networking opportunities.  The objective of this event was to educate small businesses on ERDC's mission while also providing potential contracting opportunities for FY19 - FY21.  Representing the Mississippi District Office were EDS Jeremy Sanford, BOS Joyce Conner, and PCR Ashlei Donerson who is housed in the district office. 

MS Industry Day Collage

Mike Arriola

North Carolina District Office

Michael Arriola, Acting District Director

Our Commitment to HBCUs

North Carolina is home to 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), five of which are campuses of the University of North Carolina.  The SBA is committed to being of service to HBCUs, including delivering its programs and services to the student bodies and surrounding communities of HBCUs.

On May 30, Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton and Regional Administrator Ashley D. Bell visited the Raleigh-area HBCUs Shaw University and St. Augustine’s University to signify SBA’s continued commitment to HBCUs across the state.

shaw pilkerton

Pictured above, left to right: Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton, Shaw University President Dr. Paulette Dillard, and Regional Administrator Ashley D. Bell.

Next #RuralStrong Event is July 9

The SBA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will team up on Tuesday, July 9 at Isothermal Community College in Spindale to hold a small businesses outreach event.  “Rural Strong” will showcase programs and services designed to help small businesses grow in rural communities.

During Rural Strong, speakers from both agencies will be on hand to deliver information and resources to entrepreneurs and community stakeholders.  An “Access to Capital” panel will feature financial program experts from the SBA, USDA, and alternative lenders.  A speaker from the IRS will talk about Opportunity Zones and how they can benefit small businesses, investors, and the broader community.  Between and after the sessions, event participants will have the opportunity to network with financial experts and agency officials.

Interested persons can register here for the event.

Richard White

 South Carolina District Office

Gregg White, District Director

June has been an exciting month for the South Carolina District Office. On June 18th, we held a Rural Strong Business Expo and Lenders Roundtable in Walterboro, SC in partnership with U.S Department of Agriculture and the South Carolina Small Business Development Center. There were over 100 attendees who came to learn about the resources that are available to start, grow, and expand rural businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration understands that small businesses are the lifeblood of rural economies, and Region IV has answered the call with the Rural Strong Initiative. The goal of the Rural Strong initiative is to educate and equip rural entrepreneurs with the resources and access to capital they need to be successful in their communities. However, we cannot do that without the support of our SBA backed lenders. At this event, the South Carolina District Office and Region IV Administrator, Ashley Bell acknowledged three lenders who have pledged to increase rural lending by 5% in South Carolina. Ameris Bank, Capital Bank, and Business Development Corporation of SC were each presented with a certificate of appreciation for their dedication in increasing rural lending within the state. Thank you to these lenders and other lenders in South Carolina who strive to make the American Dream a reality in rural America.

lender pic

Pictured left to right: Rich Duncan, Ameris Bank; Nat Green, BDC; Ashley Bell, SBA Region IV Administrator; Gregg White, SBA South Carolina District Director.

If you are a lender that is interested in being part of the Rural Strong initiative, please contact Savannah Wilburn at or (803) 253-3121.

If you missed our last Rural Strong event and would like to participate in the next one, please visit the South Carolina District Office website to stay up-to-date on the latest events and information.

LaTanya Channel

Tennessee District Office

LaTanya Channel, District Director


The SBA Tennessee District Office will be hosting Drive 8(a) events across Tennessee this Summer.  These events in Tennessee to be held on July 31, 2019, in Memphis and on September 30, 2019, in Nashville.  For more information and to register for the Memphis event, click here.

Additionally, we will be co-hosting events with the USDA Rural Development in East and West Tennessee during the first week of September. For more information on these events, please stay tuned these communications,  contact the SBA Tennessee District Office, or follow @SBA_Tennessee on Twitter.

Music City

Calling all lenders, join us at the Music City Lenders Conference.  Come learn about the latest updates to SBA loan programs. Meet SBA decision makers and network with other lenders and service providers. For more information, please visit here.