The Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration honored José A. Irizarry, president of Centro Gomas del Oeste, with the 2013 Puerto Rico Small Business Person of the Year Award, during the closing ceremonies of Small Business Week on the island late last week.
“José Irizarry truly represents what successful entrepreneurship is all about,” said SBA District Director Yvette T. Collazo. “He had a dream, and built on that dream, adding dedication, commitment and, above all, perseverance. The SBA is pleased to recognize him as our Small Business Person of the Year.”
Irizarry realized his life-long dream of becoming an entrepreneur in 1995, when he purchased the key to a tire shop for $6,000. Along with the business, he acquired a property lease, a long list of debts to suppliers and old machinery that soon broke down.
With financial assistance in the form of an SBA-guaranteed loan with Banco Santander Puerto Rico, today Irizarry not only owns the property where Centro Gomas del Oeste is located, but he has opened a second location several miles away, in addition to a school supply shop next-door to the main tire facility.
Centro Gomas employs 15 people, and over the past two years has experienced a 26 percent increase in sales, closing the year 2012 at $1 million. The business maintains service contracts with organizations in academia, the federal government and the commercial sector.
“For 50 years now, SBA has taken the opportunity to recognize the critical contributions small businesses make to our economy,” Collazo said. “As we conclude Small Business Week on the island, we thank the thousands of men and women that invest countless hours and efforts in support of their communities.”
Along with Irizarry, the SBA honored Alessandra Correa-Rivera, president of Mi Madre Pique Inc., with the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award; Dulzura Borincana, led by the husband and wife team of Carlos Rivera and Carmen Ríos, received the Family-Owned Business of the Year. The SBA also presented Ricardo Cardona-Gilestra, president of Master Group Corp., with the Community Engagement Award, in recognition of his leadership and dedication to advance the best interests of the community, and his commitment to social responsibility.From left: Joey Cancel, second vice of the government guaranteed loans unit; Carmen Ríos and Carlos Rivera, Dulzura Borincana owners, and Elsie Nieves, official of FirstBank’s government guaranteed loans unit, after the ceremony.
Banking partners also recognized
In addition, the SBA also bestowed the following awards to participating lenders that during fiscal year 2012 provided nearly $70 million in financing under the agency’s 7(a) Loan Guaranty program: Platinum Award to Banco Popular de Puerto Rico; Gold Award to Banco Santander Puerto Rico; Silver Award to the former Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria; and Bronze Award to Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico. FirstBank of Puerto Rico received a Star Award for highest growth in dollar and loan volume in fiscal year 2012.
For FirstBank, the recognition was the second received in the category responding to a “substantial increase in quantity and number of loans generated in 2012.”
“We’re delighted to receive this award for the second time. Our commitment is to continue offering our customers, small and medium businesses, the best service and products [needed] for their development,” said Ginoris López-Lay, executive vice president of FirstBank. “We have the basic certifications, such as ‘Preferred Lender,’ and licenses such as ‘SBA Express’ and ‘Patriot Express’ that allows us to continue providing a variety of financing options.”
It was FirstBank who nominated Dulzura Borincana for the award it received, FirstBank officials said.
The SBA also presented the Third-Party Lender Award to the former Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria for its outstanding achievement in the SBA’s 504 Loan program, and PYMES Financial Partners received the Certified Development Company of the Year Award.