SBA official sees bright future for Valley
Natalia Olson-Urtecho admittedly did not pursue an administrative position with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
But the job found her – the perfect fit for a former entrepreneur with an urban planning background.
When Olson-Urtecho visited the Mid-Mon Valley last week, it marked 18 months since President Barack Obama appointed her as a regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Olson-Urtecho heads the mid Atlantic region office, headquartered near Philadelphia. It serves seven SBA district offices located in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C. During her stop in the Valley, she was accompanied by Carl Knoblock, district director for the western Pennsylvania SBA office.
Knoblock was a panelist for the Affordable Care Act panel discussion hosted by the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce.
Later in the day, Olson-Urtecho attended a lunch event, “A River Runs Through It,” sponsored by the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Olson-Urtecho oversees more than 180 SBA offices, SCORE chapters, business development centers and other resources while managing a field staff of more than 100 loan, business, community outreach specialists and support personnel. She works cooperatively with local lenders and successful firms across the region, overseeing more than $34.2 billion in federal government contracts for goods and services purchased from local entrepreneurs.
She is responsible for delivery and management of SBA's small business programs, financial assistance and business development initiatives throughout the mid-Atlantic.
“I didn't go looking for this position,” Olson-Urtecho said. “I started community forums to try to get entrepreneurs more of a voice in this administration. A lot of businesses do not have the time to get involved, but we needed entrepreneurs to have a voice.”
The White House asked Olson-Urtecho to attend Urban Sustainability forums in the New York, Philadelphia, Newark and New Orleans.
That led to her appointment heading the SBA regional office.
Today, she drives to many of her visits throughout the seven-state region she oversees.
She arrived last Tuesday in Pittsburgh at 1 a.m. and was on the road again within a few hours in time to attend the Greater Rostraver Chamber event held at 7:30 a.m. at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township.
She prefers to drive so she can stop and visit communities, going back to her days as an urban planner.
Olson-Urtecho said she didn't know much about the SBA before accepting the position. But SCORE Small Business Development Corp. helped her business.
As founder, president and CEO of EG, a company dedicated to helping public and private entities become more profitable through environmentally friendly and socially responsible planning and strategies, she designed several management and development programs to move entrepreneurial clean technology ventures from vision to startup and profitable businesses, according to her biography.
Before founding EG, Olson-Urtecho was a transportation and land use planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and was director of global initiatives at H2L2, an architectural and planning firm with projects in 42 countries.
Olson-Urtecho said she enjoys working with small businesses. More than 96 percent of all small businesses employ 50 or fewer. A little over half of the population is employed by small businesses.
She sees a bright future for the Valley's economy, punctuated by tremendous growth in the Marcellus shale industry.
“Now, we need to get small businesses as a part of the supply chain,” Olson-Urtecho said.
Olson-Urtecho said she was impressed with the unity she saw in the Valley's business community.
“There's a sense of community here,” Olson-Urtecho said. “You have strong resources, like the chambers, here. When they organize something, the people step in.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.