Resources Available for Economic Development / Says New State SBA Director

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There are far more financial and informational resources available for economic development in Oklahoma than are being us ed, according to Jerry Andrews, new director of the U.S. Small Business Administration for Oklahoma.

The resources include SBA-guaranteed financing and experience in small business loans, procurement of contracts for minority firms, contacts with small business leaders, knowledge of their problemsand community development block grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Andrews.

"The problem," he told the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City Tuesday, "is that we are not talking to each other. The state, city, federal and private sectors are not working together.

"We could do a lot more if we can get together to make the best use of all the resources available."

Other states, such as Indiana and Illinois, are way ahead of Oklahoma in bringing city, state, federal and private resources together for economic development, he said.

However, plans are under way for that kind of cooperation, said Francis Tuttle, director the Oklahoma Department of Economic Development, and Michael Woelffer, community development director for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

"Andrews may be right that we have not talked with each other up to now," said Tuttle, "but we certainly plan to do so.

"We are going to work with the committee headed by Gene Rainbolt in setting long range goals for state economic development. We expect to work with federal agencies.

"I have said myself in speeches that we can make more use of community development block grants for economic development."

Woelffer, who was director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs when that state increased its economic development, said plans are under way for innovative use of federal funds.

For example, it is possible to draw down funds and set up revolving loans to help small business and economic development, he said.

"We certainly will be going to the SBA for help," he said. "If Andrews has a proposal, he ought to tell us about it."

Andrews, Tuttle and Woelffer all took over their jobs this year. Andrews, former owner of the Ranger Resources oil and gas firm, has been SBA director for Oklahoma for 100 days. Tuttle started his job in January, Woelffer came to Oklahoma City in April.

Andrews, who said the SBA is funded for three years under one bill despite a proposal that it be eliminated, pointed to a series of federal resources that could be put to more use for economic development in Oklahoma:

- $45 million were guaranteed by the SBA for small business loans last fiscal year, and at least that much is expected this year. This means the SBA has extensive knowledge about the potential of new business, problems and financial resources, he said.

- The SBA helped 35 minority contractors acquire $36 million in government contracts last year. …