SBA awards recognize small businesses

Published 5/21/2002
Stephanie Basalyga

From the wind-tossed sea of economic worry and woe, a hand reaches up and out toward the future.

It’s a hand that could belong to any one of the small business owners in Oregon who gathered Friday at the 2002 Salute to Small Business awards dinner to honor nine individuals and businesses that have emerged as survivors of the past year’s recession.

"Although our economy has faltered, we’re going to weather this storm and come out stronger," Gov. John Kitzhaber said during the opening reception for the dinner. "That’s in no small fact due to the role small businesses play in Oregon."

The awards dinner, held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland, is an annual event sponsored by the Oregon district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the local chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

While many of this year’s winning businesses represent the modern-day high-tech trend, they also stand as shining examples that the general business practices of the past "really will never go away," said Philip Gentry, the SBA district office director.

Sonal Shah, who was honored during the banquet as the Oregon and Region X Business Person of the Year, agreed with Gentry. Shah has built her Beaverton business, Northwest Software Inc., by combining the new field of information technology with business standards such as creating customer trust and solid customer service.

Those standards can be achieved by any business in any industry, said Shah as she received her award. "They are not beyond our grasp but within our reach."

For The Seaberg Co. Inc., selected as this year’s recipient of the Exporter of the Year award for Oregon and Region X, that grasp has stretched around the world. Under the direction of President Cheryl Scheinberg, the Newport company’s emergency splints have become a standard medical staple in more than 35 countries worldwide.

For some individuals, like Brad Robertson and Marcia Soliz, the best place to lend a helping hand is in their own backyard.

Robertson, the director of Portland State University’s Business Outreach Program, received an award as Oregon Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year for his work helping minority businesses in North and Northeast Portland thrive and create new job opportunities.

Soliz, the director of the Workforce Development Department of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, was honored as the Oregon Women in Business Advocate of the Year for her development of an Indian market that provides an outlet for Native American Indian women to sell artwork while honing their business skills.

When Richard Dalton became a state of Oregon employee representative for military service veterans, he extended his hand toward the Small Business Development Center at Oregon Coast Community College. Working with the center, the Newport-based Dalton has helped veterans step into roles as budding business owners, a role which this year earned him the title of Veteran Small Business Advocate of the Year for Oregon and Region X.

Jon McLean’s reach last year extended to help secure more than $11 million in financing for small businesses. McLean, the assistant vice president and senior business development officer for Wells Fargo’s SBA lending division in Portland, was honored during the SBA awards banquet as the Oregon Financial Services Advocate of the Year.

For other business owners - like Jack Rubinger - there’s no place like home. Rubinger was named the Oregon and Region X Home Based Business Advocate of the Year for his decision to focus his media relations consulting business on serving mainly home-based business clients.

Adam Stites’ reach into the world of e-commerce captured the 22-year-old the title of the Oregon and Region X Younger Entrepreneur of the Year award at this year’s banquet. Stites was 15 when he started an e-commerce company specializing in equipment and gear for a newly emerging sport called paintball. Now his company claims $4 million in annual sales and 19 employees and recently moved into its first official bricks-and-mortar warehouse and office space.

Keeping tabs on small businesses in all shapes and forms earned Jennifer Dirks the title of Oregon and Region X Small Business Journalist of the Year. The owner of The Writer’s Group in Portland, Dirks has spent the past 11 years working through media sources ranging from newspaper to television to expand her grasp on the issues and challenges facing small businesses.

Also honored during the banquet were:

* Rick Dawes, the retired president of Enoch Manufacturing Inc., was named the winner of the Eldon G. Schafer Champion of Small Business award. Created to honor the former president of Lane Community College who founded the college’s first business assistance center, the award recognizes individuals who have made significant singular contributions to support small businesses in Oregon. Dawes was selected for the award based on a list of small business services including founding the Oregon Advanced Technology Consortium at Clackamas Community College.

* Evergreen Community Development Association, based in Seattle with an office in Portland, received the Certified Development Company Lender of the Year award.

* Silver State Bank, a Nevada financial institution that operates a local loan production office, was named the District Minority Lender of the Year.

* Bank of America and U.S. Bank N.A. shared the title of Portland District Lender of the Year.

Award winners were selected from a pool of Oregon and Southwest Washington nominees, recommended by trade organizations and associations, chambers of commerce and individuals. The judging process was extensive, said SBA public information officer Sylvia Gercke, and included an examination of current and past financial states, sales per unit volume ratios, innovation and community service for each nominee.

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 SBA programs and services is available online at .