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Economic contributions of women are at center of conference

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Norma Campa and other women attending the Go Latinas! conference Saturday morning at the SOY Mariachi Building on South Grand Avenue take a fitness break between presentations. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Women now own 10.6 million of U.S. small businesses and more than 17,500 of small businesses in the state, people attending the Second Annual Go Latinas! Conference heard Saturday.

Women own about 41 percent of the 26 million small businesses in the United States and employ about 18 million people, John Garcia, director of the New Mexico District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, told people attending Saturday’s Go Latinas! conference. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The event at the SOY Mariachi building on South Grand Avenue signed up more than 75 people to network and listen to six speakers talk about ideas and resources to help women achieve their aims.
The conference was coordinated by the Roswell office of WESST, Women Economic Self-Sufficiency Team, a statewide organization helping primarily women, minorities and low-income people start or build businesses.
WESST will serve anyone who wants help, but 65 percent of its clients are women, said Agnes Noonan, president of the organization, which also runs the six Women’s Business Centers in the state for the New Mexico District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SBA District Director John Garcia started the day’s presentations.
“Hang on to that rope,” he told the audience, “Make It Happen.”
Garcia, a former business owner, current secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department and the member of a family of entrepreneurs, shared two anecdotes with the audience.
“Make It Happen” was an inscription on a bracelet given to him by his four-year-old daughter to help him with his consulting business, Garcia and Associates. It reminded him to do what it took to create business sales and contracts.
“Hang on to that rope” referenced a humorous story he told about a woman leading a group of nine men on a business location scouting trip. They got lost, finding themselves in a deep canyon, needing to be rescued by a National Guard helicopter crew. But not all 10 could be lifted out on the rope at the same time, so the woman volunteered to let go, but not without first telling the men her life story. She told them of being wounded in war, raising her children along with her husband, her high school sweetheart, and going back to school after her children were successful in their lives.
“She gave such a motivational speech that when she was done, all the men applauded,” he said, to the laughter of women in the room. “You guys are creative. You’re innovative. You are always thinking ahead.”

Garcia said that women now own 10 percent to 15 percent of the 175,000 small businesses in the state. Nationally, women represent 57 percent of the U.S. labor force. They also make up 74 percent of full-time employees, with 70 percent of working women having children under the age of 18.
“You can’t tell me that you aren’t playing a critical role in the nation’s economy,” he said. “In some cases, you are the driving force.”
He said that 10.6 million women are owners of the 28 million small businesses in the United States. He added that women generate $2.5 trillion in sales and employ over 18 million people.
He encouraged women to work with the SBA, WESST, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), Small Business Development Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers and other such organizations to get “counseling, capital and contracting” expertise to develop their business ventures.
The New Mexico SBA district makes about $181 million in loans a year, with a 30 percent increase seen in fiscal year 2015-16. Garcia said that was not due to a a great increase in bank lending but to technical expertise provided to business owners. “We are packaging our clients so the loan packaging is going in a lot stronger, more professional.”
Certain SBA programs aid women specifically, mentoring and advising them for up to 10 years, he added.
“You are moving into positions of authority and leadership that were male dominated over 50 years ago,” he said. “You are CEOs. You are taking over companies. You are growing. You are employing people.”
Pioneer Bank officer Susie Roe of Roswell talked about her life’s journey. At 21, she found herself unexpectedly a widow needing to raise two daughters, but she didn’t have a formal education or career experience. She worked her way up from a bill collector to a sales representative to a bank loan officer by striving hard, relying on family support and persisting. She also was willing to pay for her own self-improvement, taking out a $1,000 loan for a professional development course. Along the way, she remarried and has raised more children and grandchildren.
When she took her current position, she said, she replaced the man who had approved her for that $1,000 loan as he took retirement.
“Success to me is doing what you like to do and helping others,” she said, explaining that now she feels that she can help people stay or get back on track financially. “My message to you is to move on. You have to wake up every morning and move on and do the best you can do.”
Other speakers scheduled for the conference were Roswell paralegal and certified health coach Dora Paz, radio station sales representative Viridiana Leon, Roswell Independent School District Human Resources Director Mireya Trujillo and health care executive and volunteer Buffie Saavedra.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.