SBA chief to Hawaii’s small businesses: We’re here to help

The SBA says help is on the way with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, the Chips and Science Act.
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 4:36 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii business owners moving on from the pandemic are now dealing with new concerns other than the virus.

And the Small Business Administration says it can help.

SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman is in Hawaii and joined U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono Wednesday for a tour of the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation’s Entrepreneurs Sandbox and to meet with startup founders.

They also met with the Native Hawaiian Organizations Association, visited the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business and Leadership and toured Roy’s Restaurant in Hawaii Kai.

“She’s getting ... a really good introduction to all of the hard work of Hawaii small businesses and their needs,” Hirono said.

The two also met with Nalu Scientific CEO Isar Mostafanezhad, who says SBA gives startups like his a lifeline. His firm designs advanced microchips and has projects with NASA and the Air Force.

“The Small Business innovative research program, or SBIR, has been instrumental for for us to get our start and also continue the work that we’re doing here in Hawaii,” Mostafanezhad said.

“So we would really love to see that program continue, as it’s up for renewal essentially.”

The Iranian immigrant and UH grad says investing in innovation incentivizes highly skilled workers to stay in Hawaii and helps reduce brain drain.

“They would like to be able to contribute meaningfully and in their career to their career and the local economy. We hope that we can create options, and not just us,” he said.

The SBA gave out more than $6.3 billion in COVID relief funding to Hawaii businesses and nonprofits.

Now that COVID money is gone, business owners face new challenges, including supply delays, labor shortages, and higher operating costs for utilities and healthcare for employees.

The SBA says help is on the way with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, the Chips and Science Act.

“Through affordable capital, or technical assistance to help them develop their supply chains or create good workforce strategies, so that their business can be sustainable and grow into the future,” Guzman said.

And it’s making sure it helps the right people.

“We’ve implemented strong fraud controls across the programs, and been partnering with the Senate Small Business Committee and the House Small Business Committee, but as well as internally, with our inspector general to ensure that our funds get into the small businesses that needed it the most,” Guzman said.

“The Department of Justice has to investigate accusations, all allegations of fraud and to properly prosecute those people who engage in that kind of behavior,” Hirono added.

Every sector can benefit ― from tech to restaurants to nonprofits like Iolani Palace. SBA relief helped the historical landmark stay afloat when tourism was shut down.

Funding for Native Hawaiians, immigrants and women-owned businesses is a priority ― as well as reaching out to neighbor islands.

“This administrator is someone who is very committed to small businesses, very committed to underserved small businesses and entities such as Native Hawaiian companies and small business women,” Hirono said.

“Seeing the historic barriers and economic challenges that face our underserved communities, our women and minority owned firms and those of the Native Hawaiian organizations,” Guzman said.

“They’re the ones who innovate for us. And we’re going to count on them to build our supply chains, build our manufacturing base, and help us to be globally competitive.”

Guzman will meet with entrepreneurs on Maui on Thursday.

For more information about SBA programs, click here.