Dena Beck, a business specialist with the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), was named the Small Business Administration's Nebraska Nebraska 3rd Congressional District Financial Services Champion of the Year for 2012.
Nebraska District Director Leon Milobar (left) presented Beck (center) with her award during an event May 10 at the Nebraska Economic Developers Association Spring Conference in the Divots Conference Center in Norfolk. REAP Program Director Jeff Reynolds (right) also was in attendance.
Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) North Platte Director Jason Tuller nominated Beck for the honor.
The SBA Nebraska District Office named one outstanding financial services provider to represent the 3rd congressional district based on the amount and quality of assistance given small businesses to obtain financing outside of normal duties, advocacy for changes in the financial services industry to assist small companies, encouragement of the flow of investment capital to small ventures, active support for legislative or regulatory action with measurable results designed to help small firms.
Over the past six years working for REAP in her 16-county central Nebraska area of responsibility, Beck has helped provide 45 small business microloans for $475,100 through REAP, and contributed consulting and loan packaging assistance for another 14 loans for $1.1 million. Her work was crucial in creating and helping companies keep more than 88 jobs in rural Nebraska.
In Fiscal 2011 alone, Beck placed 14 microloans through REAP for $222,900, and helped leverage three more for $553,000, creating and keeping more than 27 jobs in Nebraska as a result. Moreover, she provided 204 consulting sessions to small businesses from consignment stores, to restaurants, grocery stores, marketing firms and many more to help them start and succeed. She offered 290 follow-up sessions to clients after the loan to ensure their continued success. As a result of these small business consulting efforts alone, she helped her clients keep and create nearly 35 more jobs in the state.
As the creator and co-author of the bi-annual Small Business Needs Assessment statewide survey Beck’s efforts have helped resource providers statewide better align their program offerings to meet the needs of entrepreneurs across the state. She has taken her advocacy work directly to Washington, D.C. for face-to-face meetings with legislators and other policy makers to move forward the interests of small businesses, and to Lincoln, where she worked to include microenterprises in the Business Innovation Act, a recent state law which, among other provisions, will help expand small business and entrepreneur outreach efforts for new and existing companies to expand product lines, create spinoffs and create a stronger link between industry and higher education in Nebraska.
Beck also contributes to a vibrant small business community in Nebraska as former director of the Minden Chamber of Commerce and the Kearney County Economic Development Agency.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in horticulture therapy from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in organizational management with minors in entrepreneurship and economic development from Peru State College and is a graduate of the Heartland Institute of Economic Development. She is active in several advisory and resource groups, the PK Partnership, South Platte United Chambers of Commerce, Nebraska Economic Developers Association, Central & South West Nebraska Development Districts and past service on advisory councils including GROW Nebraska and the University of Nebraska at Kearney College of Business and Technology’s Center for Rural Research and Development.
According to numbers provided by Jody Raskin, the SBA's chief of Microenterprise Development Branch, REAP, based in Lyons, Neb., made 68 loans to small businesses in the state in 2011, the ninth-most loans of more than 150 microlenders in the country for the year. REAP’s effort contributed to $538 million in loans nationwide from SBA-affiliated microlenders.
The SBA’s microloan program, which began in 1992 to help start-ups and existing small businesses, has enjoyed a low overall default rate (around three percent) and has created or kept on payrolls more than 155,000 jobs. The SBA provides loan funding on generous terms to these community-focused non-profits who in turn lend up to $50,000 per project; often, loans are as small as a few hundred or few thousand dollars. More than 98 percent of the loans REAP made are to rural Nebraska small businesses, with an average loan amount of just over $9,000.