Small Business Administration (SBA) personnel are working to better understand and serve the Midlothian and Ellis County communities.

SBA representatives including Yolanda Olivarez, SBA regional administrator, met with Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston and Cammy Jackson, president of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday to learn about the community and business environment.

Founded in 1953, the SBA helps small businesses owners with up to 500 employees start and grow through loans, counseling and training, access to government contracts and advocating for legislation benefiting small businesses.

“Our purpose is to assist and help businesses grow,” Olivarez said.

Many local resources are available to current and prospective small business owners she said.

Small business owners have the ability to borrow money and the SBA will guarantee 80 percent of that loan, she said. Currently, nine banks in Ellis County are offering SBA loans, Olivarez said.

“The bank has the advantage because there is a lower risk involved. The interest rate is sometimes lower and the terms are longer, so it is less of a burden on the business,” she said.

Businesses can apply for multiple loans over the course of their growth, said Herbert Austin, SBA district director, who also visited Midlothian. When a company is first starting, ready to grow, needs extra cash to prepare for a holiday rush or is ready to purchase a building, they can get new loans, he said.

“It is a continuum. We will help you along the way,” Austin said. “Businesses can use SBA at all levels, from the beginning to grow.”

But sometimes the first loan is the biggest help, he said.

“If you start a company, it is hard to get a loan conventionally,” Austin said.

The SBA is currently also in Ellis County offering counseling and financial assistance to those whose homes, rental properties and businesses were damaged in the spring storms, she said, and has provided more than $30 million in loans to people across Texas to repair homes and businesses.

Another way the SBA helps small business owners is with in-person and online training, Olivarez said. The SBA has partnered with colleges across the country including Navarro College and Cedar Valley College's Small Business Development Centers to provide free, one-on-one counseling to current and prospective business owners.

“It is a proven fact that they tend to stay in business longer if they get counseling,” she said.

Counselors can offer help on any aspect of business development including taxes, human resources issues and marketing, Olivarez said.

For those wanting help online, the SBA website has a free learning center with 58 courses on starting, managing, financing and marketing a business as well as getting government contracts, she said.

There is plenty of room, and help, for small businesses owners wanting to grow their companies beyond Ellis County, she said.

“I see small businesses benefiting from loans, from federal contracts that skyrocketed their business and from exports, taking their business to another country,” Olivarez said.

That growth is good for the community as well, she said, because when small business owners get government contracts, they create more jobs in the community. Some contracts are set aside for small businesses that meet certain requirements like veteran- or female-owned businesses, she said.