By: Mike Fong, Acting Great Plains Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration
For many entrepreneurs and small business owners from the Asian American, Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, the impacts of COVID have been devastating. A national study released in March of last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that among older small business owners nationally (age 45+), 90% of Asian-owned firms reported year-over-year revenue decline—the highest percentage compared to white (77%), Black/African American (85%) and Hispanic (81%) owned companies.
At the same time, the rise in hate crimes and racism directed at AAPI communities since the pandemic has taken a serious toll. The New York Times reported in October that the Pew Research Center found a third of Asian Americans surveyed are still afraid of being attacked and noted that in the nation’s largest cities, anti-Asian hate crimes have skyrocketed by 164% from the first quarter of 2020 to 2021.
AAPI owned businesses represent a large and growing footprint in the St. Louis area and across the state of Missouri. Asian American’s own nearly 16,000 of our businesses. The AAPI population grew by more than 37% (22,000 people) over the past decade, far outpacing the region’s overall growth rate of only 1.2%.
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to advancing equity and opportunity for AAPI communities across the country and we at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can play a critical role in economic recovery and resiliency for our nation’s small businesses, and especially for underserved entrepreneurs. Our financing tools are designed to enable access to working capital for those that may not be able to secure traditional loans from a commercial bank. Our network of resource partners provides free counseling services and technical assistance to small businesses for a wide range of needs. But perhaps the greatest opportunity lies in government contracting. The Federal government contracted for more than $600B in goods and services across the country in 2021. But while AAPI owned firms represent 10% of the businesses in the U.S., less than 3.2% of these dollars have gone to these companies. While this deep disparity is troubling, I see it as a tremendous opportunity to certify, educate and build capacity for more small, disadvantaged businesses to compete for and secure federal contracts.
Recently, I was asked by SBA to serve as Acting Regional Administrator for the Great Plains (Region 7) in addition to my ongoing role as Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest (Region 10). In Seattle, I started conversations with the AAPI community members to build awareness around SBA programs and the services provided by our resource partners. What struck me was how strong the energy, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit was in the room. But equally revealing, was the limited awareness of the SBA. We plan to continue hosting similar roundtable conversations and visits with AAPI and other ethnic chambers of commerce across the entire region. While I’m in this role as Acting Regional Administrator, I intend to do the same with AAPI communities and entrepreneurs in the St. Louis area. I’m extremely excited to work with the St. Louis Chinese American News to reach members of the community and learn more about the issues facing small business owners.
Please reach out to me if you or your organization would like more information about our programs or are interested in meeting with our local SBA team. Our St. Louis District Office is located at 1222 Spruce St., Ste. 10.103, St. Louis, MO 63103 and can be reached at 314-539-6600. Together, we will work to ensure an equitable recovery for the AAPI community in St. Louis and across the state of Missouri.