Rural Nevada’s small business scene is thriving.
To further enhance management and opportunities for owners and employers, Nevada’s chapter of the Small Business Administration is offering local businesses tools and support to preserve services within their communities.
Almost 50 local business owners, including City of Fallon and Churchill County officials, gathered at Stockman’s Casino on Wednesday to meet Nevada Administration Director Joseph Amato. The event was hosted by the Churchill Economic Development Authority.
Amato hails from New York and is a former business leader with more than 30 years of experience.
When he was appointed to director, he had five states to choose from.
“From an entrepreneurial standpoint, there are pieces in Nevada that could grow exponentially,” he said. “It could benefit residents and it could grow with the support services we could provide.”
As director, Amato collaborates with statewide agencies to create more opportunities for small businesses and provide more training in management.
“I’m here to try to make a difference, but I can’t do it without your help,” he said. “I want every business owner, commissioner, politician, and banker to understand that we’re going to do whatever it takes to help you help small business.”
According to a report conducted by CEDA, the authority helped start 13 businesses in Churchill County and create 120 jobs during the course of 12 months.
Amato is collaborating with state government organizations, such as USDA Nevada State Director Philip Cowee, to help bring new prospects to rural businesses with the state and communities, one of the first steps to making a difference, he said.
“The state of Nevada is very lucky to have Amato in this role,” Cowee said. “I think the point is for small businesses to have access to the capital. For me, it’s about getting out to those in rural Nevada and help make a difference with our products or grants.”
Amato and SBA’s new Senior Area Manager Rachel Dahl both moved their offices from Reno to Carson City to work closer with the state.
“I want us to work with the state business and industry program every day,” Amato said. “We’re forging relationships that bring a better service to our small businesses and those who want to be in business.”
Amato said a major concern is that not many local businesses know about what SBA offers. Amato said he toured 277 businesses in Nevada and discovered less than 18 percent know SBA exists.
When Amato met with city managers in Hawthorne on Monday, they discussed the Interstate 11 project; officials said they didn’t have enough childcare for those workers traveling in remote areas. There’s a lack of transportation from outlying areas to get to Hawthorne Army Depot, the town’s largest employer.
Although a private enterprise could help, Amato said he would assist in finding a solution.
“Eighty percent of the driving force behind this country businesswise is from small businesses,” he said.
Amato said banks in Nevada also could do better, such as using more product.
He said SBA Nevada’s top lender achieved 103 loans for local businesses in the state over the course of 12 months, about $24 million, which is not much.
The administration has two main programs, a Loan Guarantee Program and 504 Program for local businesses to consider.
“That’s not a lot at all,” Amato said. “Other competitive states have done more. But you have a lot of statewide banks here that are trying to do better.”
Those in attendance who work with loans found takeaways from Amato’s speech.
“We need to promote small businesses in Fallon,” said Jane Capurro, production manager of Prime Lending, a home loan company. “I have people that call me about small business loans and now, I know what I can do.”
As Nevada is becoming the tech pioneer land of opportunity, Amato said he’s spoken to small businesses in California cities; there are seven businesses that are interested in moving to Nevada, he said.
“Their district director doesn’t mind because they know I’m telling the truth,” he said. “We have a better regulatory environment, a better tax environment, and opportunities for growth are endless here.”
Besides gaming and mining, Amato said one of the most appealing industries drawing businesses to Nevada is medical and recreational marijuana; two Canadian pharmaceutical companies recently moved to Las Vegas for the opportunities, instead of Colorado, California, and other legalized states.
Amato’s last message to the public before leaving Fallon is to spread the word.
“We’re getting the word out together,” he said. “I’m going to do everything in my capacity to bring small businesses to the next level. We are not relevant unless you use us.”
Amato visited Hawthorne and Minden earlier this week, and was headed to Winnemucca on Thursday.
After the meeting, Churchill Economic Development Authority Executive Director Nathan Strong awarded Dahl a Lifetime Achievement Award.