By Guest Columnist CASSIUS BUTTS, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration – Region IV
Georgia is on my mind. My late father, Courtlandt Sr., was a Vietnam veteran and an aerospace engineer; and my mother, Barbara Ann, was the owner and operator of several businesses.
My brother, Courtlandt Jr., and I embarked on various business ventures starting at very young ages. When I think of ongoing entrepreneurial development, I often say: “Your passion is your purpose; and your purpose is your plan.”
This vital message is still present in the way that I govern my life. I have worked across party lines by focusing not necessarily on “red or blue” but in what I call: “GREEN.” More than 98 percent of this country’s commerce is derived from small business, and green is what fuels our economy.
I began to appreciate Atlanta’s business landscape initially when I was working on my undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and my graduate degree from Clark Atlanta University’s School of Public Administration. One of the most important life lessons I embraced early on is that a captain is only as good as his or her crew. I stand behind this life lesson everyday as regional administrator for the SBA.
By shadowing the elders in my family, I developed a keen understanding of true public service — either in the pulpit, attending community rallies or participating with Junior Achievement. Through relationship building and volunteering, I felt I was truly able to make a difference in the lives of others.
By reaching out through a network of services, I had incredible public policy experiences. One of my mentors was three-time mayor of Atlanta, the late Maynard H. Jackson Jr.
I also volunteered for the mayoral campaign of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. And I was fortunate to benefit from the contributions and campaign experience with then State Senator, and newly re-elected Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed.
These relationships helped me build a foundation to be the leader I am today as an appointed federal executive.
I’m also grateful for my experiences with the federal government. I was employed as one of three Chiefs of the Real Estate Owned Division within the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development where I began my federal career as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2002.
Previous to my civil-federal career, since 1992, I have worked in leadership positions for NationsBank, Fleet Bank and Bank of America (MBNA) as well as the City of Atlanta. Inspired by those around me, I co-founded CB Consulting Group, LLC, which globally specialized in governmental affairs, strategic partnership, and business consulting.
All these experiences have led me to where I am today. In 2011, I was appointed by President Barack Obama as a Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
I am responsible for delivery of SBA programs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Since being appointed, my office has achieved three record-breaking years for SBA lending in Region IV; surpassing $8 billion in SBA-backed loans to small businesses within the aforementioned eight states just in the last two years. Nearly $2 billion in SBA backed lending went to Georgia small businesses in the same time frame.
Presently gaining inspiration from business giants and mentors such as Ambassador Andrew Young, I have become an advocate for small business locally, regionally and nationally — highlighting their successes, challenges and opportunities.
With my personal commitment to strategic alliances, I have also forged new agreements with over 100 colleges, chambers, and business associations in an effort to promote inclusion between SBA and those respective organizations. This is just another example of how our regional office of the SBA is a driving force for small business across the Southeast.
In the end, it all comes down to leadership. I was selected and participated in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Leadership Institute and the 2012 Class of Leadership Atlanta. Through these experiences, I was reminded the value and importance of forging a great team. Today, our team at the SBA is strong, willing and ready to assist any existing or potential entrepreneur.
So I not only have Georgia on my mind, but also every small business across the Southeast. The best is yet to come for our small businesses, and the forecast looks great.