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Dr. Matt Hicks had wanted to be a dentist for as long as he can remember. He thinks it may have had something to do with what his Mom told him at a young age; “take care of your teeth or they will fall out of your head.”

Becoming a business owner was not so natural for Matt. After graduating from the Dental program at Oregon Health and Science University in 1997, he went to work for Dr. David Long at Moreland Neighborhood Dental. He happily lived out his dream, working as an associate for the next eight years. But in 2004, Dr. Long laid out the future for him. “I told him, either you buy the practice or you move on,” said Dr. Long. So just like that, Matt began to take over Moreland Neighborhood Dental.

Without any prior business experience, Matt found himself struggling with most aspects of running the practice. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Matt. “It was intimidating, so I did what Dr. Long had done for years and things just went along.” The practice continued doing what they do best – providing high-quality personalized dental care to a loyal following of patients.

Moreland Neighborhood Dental has been in the same building since they opened 42 years ago. With a desire to remodel or build a new building, in March 2013, Matt found himself doing some online research about SBA loan programs. “That’s when I saw the information about the Emerging Leaders Program, and thought – that’s just what I need,” said Matt.

The Emerging Leaders Initiative is a federal training initiative that specifically focuses on executives of businesses poised for growth in historically challenged communities. The initiative provides these executives with the organizational framework, resource network, and motivation required to build sustainable businesses and promote economic development within urban communities.

“Emerging Leaders got me to think about the future,” said Matt. “Your business should support your personal goals in life and the course gave me the nuts and bolts to do that. Including little tips, like developing an elevator speech and always having my business card with me. I feel like I’m not just a great dentist now, I’m becoming a great business owner.”

Now, Matt’s planning the practice’s expansion and move through constructing a new building at their same location. Moreland Neighborhood Dental continues to thrive, supporting three dentists, two hygienists, three dental assistants and six administrative office staff and offering expanded office hours five days a week starting at 7 a.m.

For more information about the Emerging Leaders Program or to find out about PDO’s 2014 Class of Emerging Leaders please visit www.sba.gov/OR