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SBA Illinois District honors small businesses, lenders at annual awards event

Winners Recognized for Business Growth, Contributions to Small Business Success and Job Creation
Release Date: 
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

CHICAGO - The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois District Office honored the state’s top small businesses and lenders at an awards luncheon at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday.

Nearly 200 people attended the event, which included a free morning resource fair to connect lenders and entrepreneurs with programs and services available from the SBA, Small Business Development Centers, SCORE volunteer mentors, and others.

“Our annual Small Business Awards event is a great opportunity to celebrate the hard work and sacrifices of Illinois’ small business owners, who are lifting up their local economies with their success,” said SBA Illinois District Director Robert “Bo” Steiner, who presented the awards to the winners. “We also enjoy being able say thanks publicly to our lenders and resource partners, who work tirelessly to deliver the financing and training their clients need.”

Author and small business expert Barry Moltz hosted the event and moderated a panel discussion about the state of the economy for small business owners. Panel participants were Byline Bank President Bruce Lammers, Crain’s Chicago startup writer John Pletz, and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago business economist Thomas Walstrum, who shared their insights and expertise, as well as practical, hands-on advice for business owners.

Each year, the SBA honors small businesses and small business advocates across the country who are creating 21st-century jobs, driving innovation, and increasing America’s global competitiveness. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon invited the Small Business Person of the Year recipients from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend ceremonies in Washington, D.C on April 30-May 1, where the 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year was named. 

Visitors discuss programs and services available at the Women's Business Development Center during the Resource Fair.

Visitors discuss programs and services available at the Women's Business Development Center during the Resource Fair.

Wintrust Bank, one of the sponsors of the event, also hosted a table at the Resource Fair.

Wintrust Bank, one of the sponsors of the event, also hosted a table at the Resource Fair.

Illinois District Director Robert "Bo" Steiner delivers his remarks.

Illinois District Director Robert "Bo" Steiner delivers his remarks.

Panelists discuss the economic forecast for small business owners.

From left: Barry Moltz, Byline Bank President Bruce Lammers, Crain’s Chicago startup writer John Pletz, and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago business economist Thomas Walstrum discuss the state of the economy for small business owners.

Full list of small business award winners:

Robert Birnecker and Sonat Birnecker Hart, of Koval Distillery, with Mr. Steiner

  • Illinois Small Business Persons of the Year: Sonat Birnecker Hart and Robert Birnecker, Koval Distillery, Chicago

Dolla Crater, of Wilhouse Engineering

  • Illinois and SBA Region 5 8(a) Graduate of the Year: Wilbur C. Milhouse III, Milhouse Engineering and Construction (pictured: Dolla Crater, Senior Vice President, Business Operations)

    Fari Maissami, with Mr. Steiner
  • Illinois Small Business Exporter of the Year: Fari Maissami, Denbur Inc., Westmont, Illinois

    Karen Goldner and Meg Herman, Illinois SBDC at WBDC

  • Illinois SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award: Illinois SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center, Chicago (pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Karen Goldner, Director; and Meg Herman, Director of Entrepreneurial Programs)

Lender award winners:

  • 7 (a) Lenders of the Year – JP Morgan Chase and Byline Bank

 Mr. Steiner; Mike Hereda, Chase Bank; Bob Esquivel, SBA Supervisory Lender Relations Specialist

Pictured, from left: Mr. Steiner; Mike Hereda, Chase Bank; Bob Esquivel, SBA Supervisory Lender Relations Specialist

Total number of loans:  In FY 2016, JP Morgan Chase had 308 loans approved, which created 803 jobs. 


The team from Byline Bank, with SBA representatives.

Pictured: The team from Byline Bank, with SBA representatives.

Dollar volume of loans:  Byline Bank delivered over $174 million to small businesses, which created 1724 jobs.


  • 504 Third Party Lender of the Year – JP Morgan Chase

 Mr. Steiner; Mike Henderson of JP Morgan Chase; and Mr. Esquivel

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Mike Henderson of JP Morgan Chase; and Mr. Esquivel

For FY 2016 JP Morgan Chase participated in 33 loans for a total of almost $18 million, creating 236 jobs. 


  • 504 CDC of the Year – Small Business Growth Corp

 Mr. Steiner; Jerry Furby of Growth Corp; Mr. Esquivel

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Jerry Furby of Growth Corp; Mr. Esquivel

For FY 2016, Growth Corp delivered $120 million to small businesses through 169 approved 504 loans, which created 1,433 jobs.


  • Central/Southern Illinois Community Bank of the Year – First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust

 Mr. Steiner; Mitchel Swim of First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust; Mr. Esquivel

Pictured, from left: Mr. Steiner; Mitchel Swim of First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust; Mr. Esquivel

For FY 2016, First Mid-Illinois Bank had 77 SBA loans approved for a total of $8 million, creating 193 jobs.


  • Northern Illinois Community Bank of the Year – Wintrust

 Mr. Steiner; Tom Huffman of Wintrust Bank; Mr. Esquivel

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Tom Huffman of Wintrust Bank; Mr. Esquivel

For FY 2016, Wintrust (Village Bank) had 64 SBA loans approved for a total of almost $26 million, creating 602 jobs.


  • Small Business Advocate Lender of the Year – U.S. Bank

 Mr. Steiner; Rob Einstein of U.S. Bank; and Mr. Esquivel

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Rob Einstein of U.S. Bank; and Mr. Esquivel

U.S. Bank had 231 loans approved for a total of $77 million, creating 515 jobs.  U.S. Bank is very active in participating and creating events with our resource partners, SCORE and SBDCs. 


  • Rising Star – Centrust Bank

 Mr. Steiner; Thomas Meyer of Centrust Bank; Mr. Esquivel

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Thomas Meyer of Centrust Bank; Mr. Esquivel

For FY 2016, Centrust Bank had 27 loans approved for a total of $20 million compared to two loans the year before.


  • Community Advantage Lender of the Year – SomerCor, 504

 Mr. Steiner; the team from SomerCor 504; and Mr. Esquivel.

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; the team from SomerCor 504; and Mr. Esquivel.

SomerCor 504 delivered over $2 million to small businesses through our SBA Community Advantage loan program.


  • Micro-Loan Program Lender of the Year – Justine PETERSEN

 Mr. Steiner; Galen Gondolfi from Justine PETERSEN; and Mr. Esquivel

Pictured from left: Mr. Steiner; Galen Gondolfi from Justine PETERSEN; and Mr. Esquivel

For FY 2016, Justine PETERSEN was the lead SBA Micro-Lender and has delivered 151 loans and over $553,000 to small businesses in Illinois.

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About the Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. 

Related State: 
Illinois