Small businesses step into spotlight

Published 5/6/2002 – Daily Journal of Commerce
Stephanie Basalyga

More than 300 people are expected to gather in downtown Portland next week to honor nine outstanding Oregon small business individuals being recognized during a 2002 Salute to Small Business awards dinner.

Sponsored by the Oregon district office of the Small Business Administration, the local awards dinner will be held Friday, May 17, at the Hilton Hotel, 921 S.W. Sixth Ave. The dinner and awards presentation begin at 6 p.m., preceded by a reception at 5 p.m.

The local celebration comes on the heels of National Small Business Week, a 39-year-old tradition that this year runs through May 11 and honors the small companies, firms and individuals that represent more than 97 percent of all businesses throughout the country.

The nine business people – along with three financial lenders – being recognized during the local dinner exemplify the tenacity and commitment that has been crucial for small business survival during the tough economics of the past year, said Sylvia Gercke, the public information officer for the SBA Oregon district office.

“A small business owner has to react to whatever is happening in the economy,” she said. “I see it as an art form. You have to find a creative way to solve problems.”

That’s the approach Sonal Shah used this past year as she tried to keep her Beaverton company, Northwest Software Inc., thriving through the statewide recession. When the economy began to ebb, Shahs’ ideas began to flow.

“We discovered through our brainstorming efforts that we had three advantages despite the downturn,” Shah said.

She tapped into strengths such as strong company teamwork and a large customer base to expand her business. While other companies laid off employees, she hired sales people.

“Her response to adversity, what she was able to do, was outstanding,” Gercke said.

For her efforts, Shah will step forward at next week’s dinner to receive the Oregon Small Business Person of the Year award. She also is a contender for a similar award at the national level.

Also receiving awards during the dinner are:

• Adam Stites, president of Paintball Online Inc. in Tualatin, named the Oregon/Region 10 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

• Oregon/Region 10 Small Business Exporter of the Year: Cheryl A. Scheinberg, president of Newport-based The Seaberg Co. Inc.

• Jennifer Dirks, owner of The Writers Group in Portland and the Oregon/Region 10 Small Business Journalist of the Year.

• Oregon/Region 10 Home-based Business Advocate of the Year: Jack Rubinger, owner of Jack Rubinger Media Relations in Beaverton.

• Richard Dalton, an employment representative with the Oregon Employment Department, named the Oregon/Region 10 Veteran Small Business Advocate of the Year.

• Oregon Woman in Business Advocate of the Year: Marcia J. Soliz, director of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ Workforce Development Department.

• Brad Robertson, director of the Business Outreach Program at Portland State University, being honored as the Oregon Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year.

• Oregon Financial Service Advocate of the Year: John McLean, assistant vice president of Wells Fargo Bank in Tigard.

Award winners were selected from a pool of Oregon and Southwest Washington nominees, recommended by trade organizations and associations, chambers of commerce and individuals. Judging criteria was extensive, SBA’s Gercke said, and included an examination of current and past financial states, sales per unit volume ratios, innovation and community service.

“Whoever is the best in all those areas is the winner,” Gercke said.

Under federal guidelines, the SBA defines small businesses as those that employ fewer than 500 people. Additional parameters such as annual revenue may be used as a further definition, based on a business’s industry category.

For companies and firms that meet the small business criteria, the SBA offers a range of services, from underwriting and guaranteeing bank loans to providing training workshops. More information about programs and services available through the SBA is available online at . The site has a link to a Web page for the SBA’s Oregon district office, which includes information about the 2002 Salute to Small Business awards dinner.