Michigan, the Midwest and The Nation Celebrate Small Business

First, some highlights of what the U.S. Small Business Administration has done for small businesses -“ and, ultimately, for all of us -“ over the past year:

  • Issued $1.82 billion in new commitments to Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs)

  • Invested $2.83 billion in financing dollars in small businesses

  • Financed 1,339 small businesses, 34 percent of which were in low-to-moderate income areas or were minority- or women-owned businesses

  • Created an estimated 56,211 jobs as a result

Some of the country’s most successful corporations received financing from SBICs during their early stages of growth. The program’s “success stories” include thousands of small businesses, but here are a few of the more recognizable names: Amgen, Apple, FedEx, Jenny Craig, Intel, Outback Steakhouse and Sun Microsystems. So, pay attention to this year’s winners as Michigan Celebrates Small Business.

National Small Business Week, May 20-26, will mark the 59th anniversary of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the 49th annual proclamation of National Small Business Week. Each state has its own winners, with some of those being further recognized as regional winners -“ and a select few achieving national recognition. This year Michigan has four regional winners and two of those have been named as the top representative of their category in the country.

The awards are presented at a gala in Lansing that celebrates the businesses and individuals. Many of those winners have been profiled in stories on www.corpmagazine.com.

While Michigan has been known for “The Big Three” -“ and, more recently, for Pure Michigan -“ the Big Three wouldn’t be as big as they are without all of the smaller companies that constitute their supplier base-¦ and the thousands of other small businesses throughout the state that support them. Additionally, there are the small professional service organizations and financial institutions and others that support not only the automotive and manufacturing sector but also agriculture and tourism and other activities that are helping the state show the rest of the country that there is life after more than 10 years in the economic basement.

That said, let’s take a look at this year’s winners…

Michigan Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year, Michigan, Midwest and National Winner

Keith King

The key word here is “Veteran” -“ which doesn’t indicate how long he’s been in business but the fact that Keith King has served his country, in this case in Vietnam.

Not only is King a Midwest winner, but he is also one of those two National winners from Michigan.

The Veteran Champion award goes to an individual who promotes small business opportunities for fellow veterans and actively informs the wider community of the need to support veterans who either own, or are planning to start, a small business.

King is president and CEO of Keith King & Associates, an advertising and public relations firm that he launched in 1998, and that has won peer awards as well as the current one. King is a founder of the Michigan Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America and national public affairs chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He helped create the first veteran business owner conference and has worked on behalf of fellow veterans in legislative activities in Lansing and in Washington.

The current national effort to help returning warriors transition to private life is providing King with an opportunity to share his experience in winning government contracts for veteran-owned small businesses.

King says he “was flattered when I received the state award, but I was absolutely stunned when I was notified about the national award. I never expected that. I’m truly honored to accept this on behalf of all veteran business owners across Michigan.”

Michigan Financial Services Champion of the Year, Michigan, Midwest and National Winner
Providing financial services -“ especially loans -“ is a touchy topic, depending on which side of the desk you’re sitting. Applicants often feel that there are too many hoops through which to jump. Financial institutions respond that they have to ensure the stability of their organization. That leaves huge opportunities for bridge-builders to make things happen for small businesses in need of capital for sustainability and growth.

Dave Adams

The Financial Service Champion award goes to someone who not only builds those bridges during office hours but also goes out of (in this case) his way to broaden those efforts beyond the workday.

Dave Adams is president and CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates, a trade association that serves more than 320 credit unions across Michigan. Throughout the recession Adams has strongly encouraged his members to increase small business loans to their members, which has led to double-digit growth in small business lending among Michigan credit unions. Adams has been busy at the federal as well as the state legislative level and worked closely with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) on the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. Today, Michigan credit union business loans have far outpaced national credit union business loan activity and credit unions are moving to top-of-mind consideration when small businesses seek outside financing.

Michigan Entrepreneurial Success of the Year, Michigan and Midwest Winner
We all have heard about entrepreneurs who started a business in a spare bedroom or the garage. What too often goes unnoticed is the help they got from the SBA to finance their fledgling operation. As with any endeavor, sometimes those businesses don’t go the way everyone had hoped. But, for those who made their help from the SBA pay off, big time, there’s not only financial success and more people working, there’s also this award, which recognizes that their small business grew to become a big business.

William Deary

William Deary is the co-founder with his wife Cheri Lynn of Great Lakes Caring, one of the Midwest’s most respected and largest providers of home health care. The Dearys received an SBA-guaranteed loan in 1995 and an SBA 504 loan in 2004 and used both to become a major player in an industry that has seen a variety of challenges. With so many baby boomers moving into a period of their lives when health becomes a significant issue, the field of providing care in a client’s home rather than in an institutionalized setting attracted the attention of a growing number of national companies who sensed a source of high return on their investment.

Great Lakes Caring is not like that. As they say, their name is their mission. The company started out in a small office with three employees and today has more than 1,100 in 14 states throughout the Midwest. Their customer base not only is the clients who require their serves, but is also the more than 2,000 physicians who entrust their patients to the care, at home, of Great Lakes Caring. Deary’s approach is to enhance that care through technology and innovation, all the while dealing successfully with increasing financial pressures on the system.

At the core, however, is working with patients. “Our intimate approach to caring for our patients,” Deary says, “along with our relentless pursuit of advanced health care technologies and innovative care services-¦[enables us to] care for them across the Midwest, wherever they call home.”

Michigan Exporter of the Year, Michigan and Midwest Regional Winner

Laurence Slovin

Corp! has been writing a great deal recently on exporting as a way to grow a business and add jobs to the economy. It’s only fitting that the SBA honor a person who owns and operates a small business that’s engaged in exporting and has increased sales, profits and/or increased employment because of exporting. There must also be demonstrated encouragement and assistance to other small businesses thinking about entering the export market either directly or through the creation of export trading companies.

B&B Process Equipment and Systems LLC has been in operation for 119 years and has learned to maximize consistent financial performance improvement through export sales. Originally a local designer and manufacturer of special mixing and separation equipment, they are now competing in a truly global marketplace, thanks to the leadership of company president and CEO Laurence Slovin. Eighty percent of the company’s sales increases over the past two years are from export sales. Slovin and B&B Process Equipment remains committed to their Saginaw home market and the company is a major employer in an economically depressed area. They also use local suppliers, which affects hundreds of people in the region.

Michigan Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year
Succession planning is critical to the long-term success of any family-owned business. This award recognizes success as measured by sales and profits, and increased employment opportunities for family members as well as non-family members. The business must also demonstrate the potential for long-term business success and economic growth and make contributions to community-oriented projects.

Jami Moore

Succession planning was not in the cards for James Earle Miller (the JEM of JEM Tech Group) in 2000. He was going to sell the business and retire. When he told daughter Jami (Miller) Moore she decided to change gears, leave the relative security of a corporate environment and keep the company in the family. The family component has now grown to include Moore’s two sisters.

Corporate growth has increased as well, at a 40 percent annual clip since Moore and her siblings took over. They’ve added some blue chip clients, gotten some notable awards from clients as well as peer organizations and are now helping those clients and their tech departments move into a greener operating environment. If that weren’t enough, Moore and company gives back to their community by serving on boards and being involved with a variety of local and national charitable organizations.

A firm believer in the power of small business and the concept that size doesn’t matter as much as commitment, Moore is fond of expressing the idea by saying “Who says a Chihuahua can’t compete with a Great Dane?”

Michigan Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Sometimes the entrepreneurial spirit can take years to develop. In some, however, it seems to have come naturally from the beginning. This award celebrates an individual who has started a small business and run it successfully for at least three years -“ and hasn’t reached their 30th birthday before June 1 of this year.

Amber Williams

It’ll be six years before Amber Williams hits the Big 3-0 so she’s known for a very long time what she wanted to do with her life. In 2008 at age 21 she started her company, Power In Motion Gymnastics, with a class of 20 competitive gymnasts. Just four years later she owns a 12,400 square foot building, has close to 400 students and employs a staff of 20. “Behind each successful business person is a great staff -“ mine continues to be amazing!” she says. Today, Moore is about to undertake an expansion to incorporate a preschool gym, a dance room and a birthday party area.

Along the way she has had welcome support from Margaret Adams (see below) at the SBA-funded Women’s Business Center and a successful (and older) fellow entrepreneur who had also started his business at 21 and believed in Williams and her business plan -“ and the financial projections the banks she talked to thought were unreachable in a down economy.

Michigan Minority Small Business Champion of the Year
This award goes to a person who has fulfilled a commitment to support minority entrepreneurship and whose volunteer efforts go beyond business/professional responsibilities to advance minority small business interests within the community, state and/or nation.

Donald Snider

When you hear “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you-¦” you should hope it’s Donald Snider, senior vice president for Urban Development and Growth in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, who’s saying it. Snider has walked the walk and talked the talk -“ as the president and CEO of Walden Foods, feeding Michigan and Eastern students Papa John’s pizza and employing 40 people, and running a Tier-One automotive supplier on the business side -“ and working with the FastTrac program, the SBA’s Detroit Emerging 200, and Midtown Detroit Inc. on the minority community development side.

Snider has led by example and his position as the MEDC’s go-to person for encouraging and fostering entrepreneurship among economically disadvantaged urban centers in particular will extend his reach and influence throughout the state. He says he is “passionate about his commitment to helping minorities achieve economic parity.”

Michigan Women in Business Champion of the Year

Margaret Adams

This award goes to an individual who is committed to the advancement of women’s business ownership in the state of Michigan by supporting legislative or regulatory action designed to help small businesses and has also volunteered to strengthen the role of women business owners within the community by assisting with legal, financial or managerial services. This award also recognizes the creation of an improved environment for the creation and expansion of businesses owned and operated by women.

According to her award citation, “Margaret Adams‘ unwavering commitment to each of her clients is evident through the work she does each day as the SBA Women’s Business Center program manager at Cornerstone Alliance in Benton Harbor. Through her dedication, knowledge and desire for overall entrepreneurial success for her clients, Adams goes above and beyond the call of duty. She imparts new ideas, shares her time, and works tirelessly for them. Her commitment to promote, encourage, and assist women-owned businesses has enabled the WBC at Cornerstone Alliance to exceed program goals. Adams has helped hundreds of women successfully understand their entrepreneurial potential and navigate through the complexities of starting and operating a small business.”

Michigan Small Business Journalist of the Year

Larry Eiler

This award goes to a journalist representing television, radio, electronic or print media who reports on, and champions, small business issues. The goal is to increase public understanding of the importance of the contributions small businesses make to the economy.

Larry Eiler, co-founder of Eiler Communications, has been a professional writer, marketing professional and journalist for his entire career. Three years ago Eiler began Re:NEW Michigan, a weekly broadcast media segment that focuses on Michigan’s entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, legislators, leaders of statewide and regional economic development and others who are trying to reinvent Michigan. Re:NEW Michigan has grown from a radio show to a monthly newsletter and podcast. Eiler has been in the forefront of economic development through his involvement with the IT Zones, Ann Arbor Spark and Automation Alley. He also spreads the word to students at Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green.

Michigan Small Business Counselors of the Year

Stan Pruski

This award goes to a business counselor who has provided outstanding contributions and has repeatedly gone above and beyond the call of his/her job duties to assist the local small business community in achieving greater success and growth.

There are two categories of counselor awards: one for the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) and one for a distinguished counselor from the Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE).

The first winner is Stan Pruski, Growth Group specialist with the MI-SBTDC, who works tirelessly with existing small businesses to help them grow. He has an uncommon combination of technical and interpersonal skills that enable him to successfully assess, plan, and implement new business strategies as well as cultural and organizational changes for his clients. His wealth of experience in working with manufacturers on their businesses and operational issues has proven invaluable to the MI-SBTDC. His ability to help a team discuss issues and gain consensus helps companies to strengthen and grow.

James Muir

The second winner is James Muir, mentor and business counselor with the Detroit Chapter of SCORE. Muir has over 35 years of management experience in logistics, transportation, and warehousing and is a Marine Corps Veteran who served in Vietnam. His skills have helped the Detroit chapter to strategically promote the services of SCORE to the business community and to realign the services of SCORE to better serve their customers. Muir mentors clients at Detroit’s TechTown and applies his experience and expertise to helping them overcome obstacles and implement appropriate action steps. He presents at a wide variety of organizations throughout southeast Michigan.

Michigan Small Business Person of the Year
Each year the Michigan region SBA office recognizes small business winners in their categories. But, there’s one winner who is beyond a specific category -“ the Michigan Small Business Person of the Year. This award goes to the person who has demonstrated staying power and showed a substantial history as an established business. The individual has demonstrated an impact of his business on the job market; and increased company sales over the past three years. The person has also developed innovative product and service offerings that illustrate creativity and imagination. Additionally, the individual will be involved with community projects, investing both personal time and resources.

John Lowery

John Lowery, whose Applied Imaging has been in the office technology business for 36 years, has worked closely with every major office imaging technology manufacturer to develop programs for dealers nationwide. Under Lowery’s leadership, Applied Imaging has received more than 50 sales achievement and service excellence awards. With offices in six statewide locations, Applied Imaging provides document imaging and IT equipment, solutions and other services to their corporate clients as a part of their total electronic document workflow solution.

One of his strengths, Lowery says, is his “value system that rewards and recognizes our employees to deliver the best for our clients. Our culture is strong and our people understand how important client service is to the success of our company.”

Lowery recognizes the value of giving back to the community and believes that future success depends on the energy, vitality, and enthusiasm of today’s youth. Applied Imaging has become a significant Michigan success story by making a meaningful, positive economic impact, providing employment for many local residents and improving the quality of life throughout Michigan.

Editor’s note: Corp! Online Editor Michael Carmichael was the 2011 SBA’s Small Business Journalist of the Year for Michigan.