By Amber Lewis
SBA Deputy District Director of the Tennessee District Office, Patrick Rodriguez, visited Daughters of Zion, a highly successful SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program grantee, yesterday to meet with Dr. Gerald Kiner, Ph.D. He was pleasantly surprised by the spread of food that awaited him. Dr. Kiner ensured that Mr. Rodriguez’s visit would be memorable. They were joined by David Truong, a highly successful mortgage broker and a small business client of Daughters of Zion’s SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program. Mr. Truong was Daughters of Zion’s 43rd SBA CNPP Entrepreneur of the Week winner.
During their two and a half hour meeting, which felt more like a celebration than a mere gathering, they enjoyed their meal and shared laughs. Dr. Kiner discussed his collaboration meeting from the previous day between the Daughters of Zion and Ford Motor Corp regarding using their small business clients, DHS Family First program participants, and business school graduates at Blue Oval City which is being built 40 miles outside of Memphis. Mr. Rodriguez mentioned that they are also interested in meeting with Ford- especially considering Ford’s Blue Oval City will be a multi-billion dollar electrical vehicle and electric battery production plant which is expected to cost $5.6 billion, making it the most expensive single investment in Tennessee history. It will employ 5,800 when complete.
Mr. Rodriguez shared that his office and staff are divided into three categories: lending, contracting, and marketing. He described the SBA’s new, more relaxed lending guidelines, saying, “We want to get the money out the door.” Mr. Rodriguez also pointed out the need for more abundant 504 lending in Tennessee, comparing it to North Carolina, where Tennessee only has a third of the loans. He promised to provide Dr. Kiner with a list of the top 504 lenders for Daughters of Zion’s over 920 small business clients, which is 283.33% more than their original two-year grant goal of 240 clients. With four months remaining before the pilot program ends, Dr. Kiner projects having over 1200 small business clients enrolled by November.
Dr. Kiner expressed his admiration for SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, calling her “bigger than life” and mentioning her appearances in his favorite magazines INC. and Forbes, as well as her being the keynote speaker along with billionaire Mark Cuban at the renowned South by Southwest conference. Dr. Kiner couldn’t resist asking if Mr. Rodriguez had met Isabella Guzman and what she was like. Mr. Rodriguez replied, “She’s cool, a very smart lady… and she knows SBA, which is different. She hit the ground running because she already knew the SBA… she has a really good track record and she’s been doing well.” He added, “Most of the time, a President picks an Administrator who doesn’t really know SBA, but she knows the SBA.”
It was evident that Patrick Rodriguez also knows the SBA- thankfully for the state of Tennessee, he has hit the ground running.