On December 5, 2012, SBA Administrator Karen Mills visited the University City Loop area. She began the morning with a business round table at Fitz’s American Grill and Bottling Works with local small business leaders, including Mike Alter, owner of Fitz’s; Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill and other small businesses; Tom Ray and Lew Prince, owners of Vintage Vinyl; Gloria Carter-Hicks, owner of Hicks-Carter-Hicks, LLC; Russ Odegard and Mike Pruett, co-founders of Dynalabs; Christy Ford Schlafly, co-owner of Ford Hotel Supply Company; and Vicki LaRose, owner of Civil Design, Inc.
SBA Region VII Administrator Pat Brown-Dixon, SBA St. Louis District Director Dennis Melton, and other staff members sat in on the meeting. Topics of discussion included the vibrant small business community of “the Loop,” the debate in Washington over the so called fiscal cliff and how it will affect small businesses, health care and tax credits for small businesses. Mills, who is a member of President Obama’s cabinet, will share with him what she learned.
A small business tour of the area started at Vintage Vinyl, where the Administrator reminisced about her original purchase of a Simon and Garfunkel record and re-purchased it. The owners received assistance from SCORE, an SBA resource partner, before they opened the store. The day of the Administrator’s visit the store’s billboard was dedicated to welcoming Mills and SBA to the community. Mills returned to Fitz’s for a famous root beer float and watched the bottling operation. Owner Mike Alter expressed his appreciation for three SBA loans he has received over the years. After a stop by the Chuck Berry statue, Mills ended the day with a tour of Compônere to chat with owner Eleanor Wilson Ruder, admiring her personal artwork.
Mills also discussed small business issues and the ongoing hockey lockout with reporters, advising small businesses affected by the NHL lockout to reach out to the SBA and its resource partners for assistance and advice.