Regional SBA offices catch Small Business Week spirit

Washington and New York host the headline events, but SBA offices around the U.S. are holding award ceremonies and networking events for local entrepreneurs.

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Does Small Biz Week matter?
The SBA-backed National Small Business Week returns for its 55th annual outing in Washington, providing valuable networking opportunities for some, but little tangible action on key policy issues.More
A customer browses the tables at last year's sidewalk sales in San Francisco, an event the city looks forward to hosting again this year.
When you're out of the office, how often do you check in with your employees?
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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- While the headline National Small Business Week events take place in Washington D.C. and New York City throughout the next few days, regional Small Business Administration (SBA) offices across the nation are recognizing small enterprises in their own time and in their own ways.

This Wednesday, for example, the invite-only Champions Award Winners Gala will be held in Washington at the same time that Louisville, Ky., hosts its own invite-only, statewide dinner for standout entrepreneurs. The district office will give out various prizes and recognize a dozen local businesses that have made it past the startup stage.

"We often forget about entities that are growing and employing people during difficult economic times, so this is a chance for our state to say thank you to the strong, healthy businesses," event organizer Becky Baugle said.

Knoxville, Tenn., will host a small business expo on Tuesday, which is free and open to the public.

"We anticipate having 200 people there, 20 of whom represent banks and small-business lending organizations," said Clint Smith, Knoxville's SBA district director.

From noon till 7 pm, small business owners will be able to meet with lenders in 15-minute sessions and participate in workshops covering topics such as government contracting and how to use a 401(k) as equity for SBA loans. Like Kentucky, Tennessee will also recognize small-business owners in its state in an awards presentation.

It's Small Business Week. Should you care?

But because many SBA representatives and award recipients will be in Washington and New York City this week, most regional organizations around the nation have chosen to schedule their own events for after the national ceremonies finish.

Chicago, for example, will have a matchmaking event, training classes and an awards reception on June 19. Salt Lake City will host a luncheon for Utah entrepreneurs on May 5. Dallas is planning a May 1 lunch event with local business owners. The SBA's New York City district office jumped the queue in the other direction: It held a breakfast event last Thursday.

Other regions delayed their festivities for logistical reasons.

"The SBA doesn't announce the dates of National Small Business Week until late in the year, but we need to start planning for our events much earlier," said Gary Marshall, public information officer for the San Francisco SBA district office. (National Small Business Week is traditionally held in April or May, but the exact dates float around and depend largely on when the SBA can land a block of hotel rooms and event space in Washington.)

San Francisco scheduled its Small Business Week for May 12 and has planned a full slate of ceremonies, networking sessions and sidewalk sales featuring goods and services from independent restaurants, retailers and service providers. To encourage widespread participation, the city of San Francisco runs the event and keeps it red-tape free: participants pay no fees to join the sidewalk brigade.

This year, San Francisco is focusing on green business - recognizing those that are already green and helping those that want to adopt more environmentally friendly business practices. The first party of the week kicks off on Monday night at City Hall, and Marshall anticipates between 1,500 and 2,000 attendees.

"Every neighborhood participates in our Small Business Week," Marshall said. "The whole thing is very festive."  To top of page

Are you participating in National Small Business Week? Tell us about it.

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