SBA’s Guzman announces 2 new Women’s Business Centers in Puerto Rico
U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Guzman announced the launch of two Women’s Business Centers (WBC) in Puerto Rico, at the Ana G. Méndez University in Gurabo and Friends of Puerto Rico.
Guzman — who kicked off National Small Business Week, which runs Sept. 13-15, during her first visit to Puerto Rico — confirmed the agency’s decision during a conversation with Department of Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Cidre at the San Juan Economic Forum.
The new centers will carry out the mission of helping women-owned small businesses throughout Puerto Rico start, grow, and expand their businesses and reflect the agency’s priority to increase access for women entrepreneurs to resources in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.
“Women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at high rates, and we’re excited to have now two women’s business centers on the island,” said Guzman. “I think it’s really critical to continue to support our women entrepreneurs with specialized services beyond our resource partners.”
Guzman’s two-day visit — her first — wraps up today, following a full agenda of meetings with local government officials, including Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and members of his economic cabinet.
“SBA has supported our administration and played a central role during the recovery of small businesses that have been affected by the pandemic,” Pierluisi said.
During the forum, Guzman touted the work of the SBA’s local district director, Josué Rivera, who she said, “has been on the ground and is ready to serve and connect the headquarters and all of the resources that we have to assist Puerto Rico.”
The WBC, sponsored by Ana G. Méndez University in Gurabo, will provide services in the Central Eastern Region of Puerto Rico in Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Barranquitas, Caguas, Cayey, Ceiba, Cidra, Comerío, Gurabo, Humacao, Juncos, Las Piedras, Naguabo, Orocovis, San Lorenzo, Guayama, Arroyo, Patillas, Maunabo and Yabucoa. The second WBC, sponsored by Friends of Puerto Rico, will serve San Juan and Bayamón.
The SBA’s Women’s Business Centers are a national network of more than 135 centers that offer one-on-one counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance, and mentoring to women entrepreneurs on numerous business development topics, including business startup, financial management, marketing, and procurement.
“Latina entrepreneurs are among the fastest-growing entrepreneurial segments in the nation. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and as the nation recovers, it is SBA’s priority to ensure that women in Puerto Rico have equitable access to resources and support to start, scale, and grow much-needed businesses within their communities,” said Natalie Madeira-Cofield, SBA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership.
“The SBA’s WBC program is that catalyst for the growth of in-depth, substantive, outcome-oriented business services for women entrepreneurs,” said Madeira-Cofield in a statement.
During her talk with Cidre, Guzman also confirmed the SBA’s plan to expand its services to small businesses by assisting them in adopting technology at a faster rate.
“The silver lining of COVID-19 is that businesses adopted technology at really high rates. We want to be able to leverage those connections and be technology-forward, as I mentioned. That means better utilizing technology to reach ecosystems, to maybe reach rural communities,” she said.
“As we invest in broadband with the bipartisan infrastructure deal in Congress, we’ll better meet businesses where they are — which is online on various platforms. We will be expanding our use of technology, and the president’s budget makes key investments in building up modernizing technology,” she said.
In other words, the SBA’s future is more focused on technology and training small businesses on how to use it.
“We want to continue to train businesses on technology and then of course on the other side on cyber security. That is such a critical priority for the administration, not only for small businesses trying to contract with the federal government — which should be required to reach a level of cyber health, as they are now more exposed than they’ve ever been.