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SBA: Small business vital to economy

Dream Big. Start Small.

The mantra for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s weeklong Delta Region Main Street Road Tour rang true throughout the visit of Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the SBA, to Vicksburg Thursday.

From inquiring about occupancies rates to whether local merchants have their own websites, Contreras-Sweet toured downtown Vicksburg and several local stores, including Michel’s Record Shop, 10 South Rooftop Bar and Grill, Frederick’s and Marcus Furniture.

“The dedication to Main Street by these small business is unparalleled,” Contreras-Sweet said of her tour. “We can tell how much they cherish the community’s in which they grew up like we just saw (at Frederick’s). The customer service, the sense of pride, the uniqueness of their products, all of that is what we’re trying to get out. Get out of the malls. Come see and visit Main Street because this is where you’re going to meet people.”

Timmie Fedell, owner of Michel’s Record Shop, said she thought it was fabulous the SBA administrator visited her store.

“I think it’s great to recognize small businesses in Vicksburg,” she said. “Small business is what carries the country, and without them we’d be in trouble. Vicksburg Main Street is all about small business.”

Contreras-Sweet said the SBA was not only touring to raise awareness about what it can do for small businesses, including providing capital, counseling, federal contracting and even disaster assistance, but to raise awareness about the benefits of small businesses in communities.

“What we need to do is to remind people that it’s one thing to say (you) really respect small businesses, but are you shopping at those places?” she said.

“That’s why we love this mayor because he’s truly committed.”

“We have a challenge called StartUp in a Day and are saying to mayors across the county, ‘Have a process that allows a small business to be able to start up in a day.’ Let’s roll out the red carpet for them too because you don’t know which small business is going to be the next big business,” she said.

The visit to the Red Carpet City of The South concluded with a ceremony at City Hall as the SBA recognized Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and the mayor returned the thanks. The SBA’s road tour will continue through July 11 and conclude in New Orleans.

Kim Hopkins, director of Vicksburg Main Street, said the SBA’s visit was an honor for the city.

“They only chose three downtowns in the whole state, and we’re glad they chose ours,” she said.