SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman visiting with Blanca Plascencia, co-owner of El Fogon in West Des Moines. Photo Tar Macias / Hola Iowa
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Recently, Hola Iowa had a chance to sit down and talk to SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman and Cindy Axne,, Representative of 3rd District in Iowa while they visited and spoke with small businesses in the Des Moines Metro area. One of these businesses was El Fogon Mexican Restaurant in West Des Moines co owned by Blanca Plascencia.

During this conversation Administrator Guzman talked about the commitment of the Biden Administration to equity and building better relationships with communities.  Administrator Guzman talked about how the SBA (Small Business Administration) was involved in improving and simplifying the rules of certain programs, in particular, the Paycheck Protection Program that helped more small businesses to access this program.  

Administrator Guzman talked about the Community Navigator Pilot Program. This particular program was designed to get the SBA to work closer with states, local governments, SBA resource partners and other organizations to reach out to small businesses in underserved communities.  Administrator Guzman explained that in Iowa, the community Navigator is currently working with four different organizations. They try to inform communities about available services and programs to help small businesses to thrive.  

“We are trying to put out these community advocates who could champion our programs and connect small businesses. It’s about expanding our reach, expanding our network in building trusting relationships within communities with authentic providers to help those small businesses”  Administrator Guzman said.

Besides the Community Navigator program, Administrator Guzman also talked about the Council on Underserved Communities (CUC)  that was recently established. The CUC provides SBA with input, advice and recommendations on strategies to help strengthen competitiveness and sustainability for small businesses in underserved communities.

“Within this Council we brought together diverse people to make sure SBA across the board meets the needs of Small businesses,” Administrator said.  

The Administrator Guzman also acknowledged that Latino communities need more investment. She explained that the SBA is working on the plan to change that. SBA is networking with local organizations that are already there and at the same time are trying to expand their offering to more women and people of color.  

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SBA Administrator also thanked Representative Axne for showing her how diverse Iowa is.  

“[Thanks to Representative Axne] for championing SBA’s engagement to lift up our services and offerings to better support especially the linguistically diverse population in the state,” Administrator Guzman said.  

As to representative Axne, she talked to her constituents This Iowa Representative is well aware of the growing Latino population in Iowa. She wanted to assure Latinos in Iowa that they have her support and support of the Biden Administration, in general. She said she was the only Representative from Iowa that voted, supported or have written bills that incorporate important issues for many Latinos. 

On a recent Telemundo survey 60% of Latina women have expressed that they would leverage the power of their vote to a candidate that supports climate change initiatives, improvement on problems of racism and discrimination and minimum wage increase. 

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Representative Axne answered “Check, check and check”.  She told us that she is fully committed to working on resolving these issues as well and that she has “literally written bills, colead bills or voted for bills that address all those issues”.  

In addition, Rep. Axne explained that as a member of the Financial Services committee, she works on many problems that would help small businesses to reach success.  She  explained that her office is constantly in contact with various Latino groups in her district to learn more about their needs. If there is a bill proposed that could have a direct impact on the Latino community her office reaches out to these groups to get their opinion on the matter.  

“Not only we reach out, they push information to us,” Rep. Axne assured that her office has developed good communication with the Latino community in her district.  

She also expressed how important it is to hear their wants and needs and  work together on solutions. 

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“Representation means a lot.” she said. 

Congresswoman Cindy Axne and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzmán (center) met with a group of Latina businesswomen at the restaurant El Fogón in West Des Moines on February 14.
Photo by Tar Macias / Hola Iowa

“And speaking from a woman’s perspective we are fed up with a system that doesn’t work for our families. Women are stepping into the market because they are trying to create opportunities for themselves that aren’t there and they are creating these measures on their own and creating structures, and that is why I think people like Blanca (owner of El Fogon in West Des Moines) are so instrumental in helping other women business owners, Latina business owners, Black business owners send a message that we need better structures in this country to support us” Rep. Axne added.

“We have a long way to go. Actively President Biden, Administrator Guzman, all of the entire administration is charging ourselves along with the legislators to work on these issues and we are not there yet, we are, piece by piece getting there.” Rep. Axne said.

The discussion between these two powerful women finished with Administrator Guzman assuring that SBA will continue to work on reaching out to Latino community here in Iowa to assure them that they have support from the current Administration.  

“It comes down to basic personal communication we need to establish,” Administrator Guzman said. “We will continue to work with the Congresswoman to make sure we can reach the Latino community as well as black owned businesses and other diverse businesses here in Iowa to make sure they are supported and can connect with the government and build trust. I think it takes a personal connection.”  

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