Former AEC employee vows to leverage his position to help local economy
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) last week appointed Sandy resident and former Planning Commissioner Harry DeWolf as its district director for Oregon.
At 43 years old, DeWolf - who has worked for the SBA as the state's deputy director since 2005 - becomes the nation's youngest person to lead a district office.
'I am happy to continue serving Oregon's small-business community with the SBA, and I look forward to building new partnerships throughout the state,' DeWolf said. 'There are over 300,000 small businesses in the state - I have my work cut out for me.'
National SBA Administrator Steven C. Preston announced the promotion Friday, April 13. DeWolf took office two days later, replacing his former superior, Leon Milobar, who moved to the Nebraska District Office.
'Harry DeWolf brings a great deal of experience to this position,' said Preston in a prepared statement. 'As a former SBA deputy district director, small businessperson and veteran, Harry will be a strong advocate for small business in Oregon. I am pleased to have him on our team.'
According to the SBA's Web site, the federal government created the independent agency to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small-business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of the United States. Its mission is to help Americans start, build and grow businesses by distributing its services to people through its network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations.
DeWolf - a business graduate of Oregon State University and a U.S. Navy veteran with 20 years of experience as a supply officer - spent six years as president and chief operating officer for Sandy-based technical publications company AEC Inc. He served the Sandy Planning Commission for three years and has hinted at a possible run for city office in the future.
DeWolf joined the SBA in 2005 in Portland as deputy director of the SBA in the Oregon District Office and was responsible for the delivery of SBA's programs and services throughout the state. He said his promotion is 'just more of the same' in terms of his job description. 'I'm kind of driving the vision of the district.'
That vision, he said, is changing. The SBA is morphing from an organization that mainly provides loans for startup businesses into a group that gives small companies the tools they need to smartly enter the marketplace and to stay in business.
'Now we're focusing more on marketing,' DeWolf said, 'kind of the nuances that are relevant to small-business owners.'
DeWolf said he plans to run the Oregon district like a small business. 'We have to,' he said. 'Everyone's kind of multitasking all the time because we don't have the luxury of having an abundance of staff members.'
He said his experiences at AEC and on the Planning Commission have proven invaluable at the SBA.
'I have constantly referred back to the AEC experience and my invaluable experience with the city,' DeWolf said. 'I can talk the talk because I was walking it. I talk to folks about having to make payroll, having to get county approval to build a building. I know exactly what they're talking about.'
Former boss Ernie Brache agreed that DeWolf's tenure at AEC was fertile training ground for the directorship.
'AEC is a small entrepreneurial company,' he wrote. 'It was Harry's first foray into the civil sector after a career in the U.S. Navy. As such, Harry was exposed to a fast-growing company faced with all the challenges that entrepreneurs encounter relative to cash flow, diversification, hiring and all the other logistics related to such organizations.'
He added, 'I like Harry very much … He is a problem-solver and knows how to navigate complex business systems. I know he will be very good for the small businesses in the state of Oregon.'
Although DeWolf's job is to promote small-business services for the entire state, he said he has a special interest in his home economy.
'It has always been my wish that the impact of the Small Business Administration services and partners … would reach out farther to the east, into Sandy and other areas,' he said. 'The information (about our programs) isn't getting out there for a variety of reasons, and my hope is that I can leverage my position to help the small businesses out there, however I can.'
He said he hopes to visit the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce gatherings from time to time and also facilitate some quarterly small-business classes in the area.
Despite his promotion, DeWolf says he has no intention of moving away from his beloved Sandy.
'(SBA) offered me other positions, but I said, 'No, this is it,'' he said, noting that he took the deputy director job over directorships in Alaska and Texas. 'Coming from the state and having done small biz there in Sandy, I'm a little more tuned in to the issues here than someone who isn't necessarily from this area. I can talk the talk a lot better here than Alaska.'
To contact the Oregon district office of the SBA, call 503-326-2682 or visit www.sba.gov/or.
We asked Harry...
We asked Harry DeWolf what he thinks about the current state of business in the Sandy area.
'I think it's doing better than it was a while ago. I think some of the same mistakes are still being made. Some people are jumping into business without doing their homework. But with all the new commercial properties opening up, there are better, higher-quality storefronts in various locations, which I think will help (business).
'I just wish more people would take advantage of more SBA opportunities before they go into business. There are a lot of great, free services out there people don't tap into sometimes until it's too late.'