Alexandra Blum, President and CEO of Minnesota Business Finance Corporation, has been named Financial Services Champion of the Year for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District Office as well as the upper Midwest Region.
The Financial Services Champion award is presented annually in each state to individuals who assist small businesses through advocacy efforts to increase the usefulness and availability of accounting or financial services.
The regional award winner is selected from among the state winners. In addition to Minnesota, SBA’s upper Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Blum has served as president and CEO of the Minnesota Business Finance Corporation (MBFC) since 1998. Under her leadership, MBFC has become a thriving $150 million certified development company licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to originate SBA 504 commercial real estate and equipment loans throughout Minnesota. She also serves as CEO of MBFC’s affiliate, The Minnesota Center for Business Development – a 16,000-square-foot “one-stop capital shop” offering financing, managerial and technical assistance and training to businesses, lenders and economic development entities.
This year alone, under Blum’s leadership, MBFC generated a record number of SBA 504 loans that created 887 jobs and retained 979 jobs within those businesses. MBFC in 2005 originated record 100 SBAS 504 loans totaling $45.4 million – a significant 68 percent (dollar-based) increase compared to the previous year. With Blum as its president and CEO since 1998, MBFC has originated nearly a quarter of a billion dollars worth of SBA 504 loans, providing significant job and economic growth to local communities.
Blum knows how to help generate small business growth at the grass roots level. A notable achievement was how she was able to put together a $250,000 grant for the Central Lakes College Small Business Development Center (CLC SBDC). This grant will have a direct impact on business investment and job growth in the north-central Minnesota region covering 11 rural counties. It will provide entrepreneurs and small business owners, who often face challenges getting traditional bank loans, with new financing opportunities to bring their imaginative products and services to market.
The CLC SBDC grant exemplifies Blum’s grass roots approach and acumen to bring in partners to further spread small business growth. The grant will be matched dollar-for-dollar with state and federal funds and thus generate a total of $500,000 for small business development. The CLC SBDC grant is worth many times more than its original amount ($250,000) and will have along-term growth effect for small businesses in the north-central region.
Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries based in Burnsville, Minn., has been named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Small Business Person of the year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects.
Miller was nominated by Steve Saefke of South Metro SCORE and Leanne Baldwin of Associated Bank.
Miller joined Permac Industries in 1992 as a salesperson. Although she really had no background in manufacturing or in running a business, Miller purchased Permac in 1994, a small precision machine parts manufacturing company that, at the time, was in workout condition with the bank. Dave Cleveland of Associated Bank believed in Darlene and helped her get an SBA 7(a) loan and mentored her during those early years.
In an industry totally dominated by male CEOs, she has carved out a growing niche of profitable business opportunities by highlighting her exceptional customer service skills and by developing a cadre of highly productive and trusted employees. Together, they have met their customers’ toughest needs; even as others in the industry said it could not be done.
At a time when many manufacturing jobs are being lost to off-shore producers, Miller continues to find new customers and increase the sales of Permac Industries. Her plan for doubling her plant size within two years will mean even more good jobs for American workers.
Under Miller’s leadership, the company growth required more space. Permac moved from leased space, to an owner-occupied facility, with 75% more square footage and anticipates additional expansion by 2007. This move to more space and the acquisition of the building was made possible through an SBA 504 loan.
Besides the initial risk of purchasing Permac, Miller continues to take risks by investing in the latest equipment and technology. She is an industry leader when it comes to quality initiatives. Her contributions and insights, as a member and Director of the Precision Machine Products Association, are appreciated by all members, many of whose owners are part of a family business with several generations of experience.
Miller has received many forms of recognition over the years as a business leader and as an individual whose contributions to her local community have made it a better place to live and work. One example is a program Miller and three other local business leaders developed to mentor ninth grade girls who are “at risk.” She is active in promoting the business community as a Chamber Member and through several business interest groups.
Andrew Davis, Chairman and Co-Founder of Comfort for Courage, has been named the Veterans Small Business Champion of the Year for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District, the upper Midwest Region, and the Nation.
The Veterans Small Business Champion Award is presented annually in each state to individuals who have fulfilled a commitment to advancing small business opportunities for veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
The regional award winner is selected from among the state winners. In addition to Minnesota, SBA’s upper Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. The national award is selected from Regional winners.
Andrew Davis recently left the U.S. Army after achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant and serving three combat tours as a Ranger – two in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq.
Upon his return to civilian life, Davis directed his continuing passion to serve his country by chairing and co-founding Comfort for Courage, a non-partisan, student-led movement which began by providing comfort goods to deployed service member and their families.
The organization recently created a first-of-its-kind Veterans Transition Center at the University of Minnesota. The ultimate goal of the Center is to provide a one-stop-shop on campus for student Veterans to learn what resources are available to them, and to provide training and tools that will help them succeed as business leaders and owners in the future.
Organizations and businesses are already lining up to provide services to the Center, such as a nationally-recognized consulting firm which will help Veterans with resume writing. The Center is an investment in the future business success of this state, and indeed the nation, as a result. Davis is also a full-time college student at the University, works as the Subject Matter Expert for Military Applications at Minnesota Defense, acts as a Facilitator for Defense Alliance of Minnesota and also serves on the 2005-06 military action group at the state legislature.