By Thomas J. Sullivan–
On any given day, drivers passing along Sylvan Road may notice rows of cars parked outside the massive, 80,000-square-foot Small Business Administration building in Citrus Heights, but most probably don’t know what happens inside.
“We’re one of the best kept secrets around,” said Heather Luzzi, district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Sacramento District Office, based in Citrus Heights at the corner of Stock Ranch Road and Sylvan Road. “We want business owners to know we’re here, and we’re a great resource to help your business grow.”
Luzzi, a former banking executive, oversees the delivery of SBA services in the Sacramento District’s 22-county Northern California Region. She manages a team of a dozen economic development and lending specialists in SBA’s ground floor offices in Citrus Heights, while the second floor offices can house up to several hundred SBA employees through the Office of Disaster Assistance, which most recently has helped provide federal assistance to wildfire survivors.
The district is home to four Small Business Development Centers, three Service Corps of Retired Executives SCORE Chapters, a Veteran’s Business Outreach Center, and a Women’s Business Center as well as a Procurement Technical Assistance Center. These independent organizations are funded by the SBA and offer training and counseling designed to meet the needs of small business owners — for free, or at a low cost.
The SBA also offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters. SBA disaster loans fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. For more information, applicants may visit their nearest Disaster Recovery Center, apply online at SBA.gov/disaster, or contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955.
Luzzi said the Citrus Heights SBA office was shuttered for 20 full business lending days during the recent partial government shutdown, although disaster assistance operations on the second floor were not affected.
The Citrus Heights SBA District office serves close to 3.9 million people and has over 230,000 small businesses located in the 22-county region it serves. In fiscal year 2018, Luzzi said 899 loans were made to businesses through her office, totaling $522.7 million . She said the SBA and its strategic partners have also counseled and trained thousands of business owners and assisted them in gaining access to capital exceeding $1 billion dollars.
“The SBA is an example of your tax dollars truly at work,” Luzzi said. Business owners are welcome to come into the Citrus Heights office to pick up a Sacramento-specific edition of the U.S. Small Business Resource Guide, which describes many of the services offered to the local community, she said.
“Volunteers of our SCORE chapters have a wealth of experience and can offer practical advice from evaluating a business plan to helping to develop marketing strategies,” Luzzi said. A schedule of small business classes, workshops, counseling, forums and special events are offered regularly through the Sacramento SCORE website at www.sacramento.score.org
Behind the scenes, the Citrus Heights SBA center plays an important national role in processing loan guaranty applications.
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Processing Center in Citrus Heights is one of two regional locations in the nation. A second processing facility in Hazard, KY is linked to Citrus Heights into one process for efficiency and optimal staff utilization, according to the SBA web site.
The 7(a) Loan Guaranty program is considered one of the SBA’s primary and most popular programs. Applicants must meet the SBA’s size standards and be considered small within their particular industry.
Luzzi says her goal is to boost overall awareness of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s services throughout her district and to expand access to SBA programs in under-served communities.
“For example, we’re looking to help new and existing business to develop their export potential,” Luzzi said. The SBA offers a microloan program which provide small dollar loans to women, minorities, veterans and other small business entrepreneurs who may have limited collateral, challenges with cash flow, or not enough industry experience.
Local business owners can also use the SBA’s Lender Match, an additional online tool for businesses to match with potential lenders by industry type, age of business, location and their financial needs.
“It’s an exciting time to be working for the U.S. Small Business Administration,” said Luzzi.
Contact the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Citrus Heights office at 6501 Sylvan Rd., Suite 100, at (916) 735-1700. Additional information is available at www.sba.gov/offices/district/ca/citrus-heights/leadership.