1. What experiences best prepared you to be a leader in the CDC community?
All of life's experiences add value to who we are and how we approach our current and future situations. For me, growing up in a military family and experiencing life in a wide variety of communities across the United States and Europe provided me with perspective both on how similar and how different things can be from one area to the next - just as every REAL 504 loan is different. My time in the US Air Force was a huge influence as well. I served as a meteorologist, so my job consisted of analyzing complex, quickly changing data and informing the communities that were dependent upon it. For example, when I was stationed near Enid, Oklahoma, I was responsible for confirming severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity, and for issuing alerts both on the base and in the local community. I also did two tours in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, where I was responsible for ensuring that all NATO aircraft in the area were continuously aware of safe versus unsafe flight patterns in relation to wind speeds, icing, storms, and so on. It was key to be calm under pressure, to think things through completely but quickly, and to make the best decisions for the safety and well being of others. Of course, all of that time spent in military environments also prepared me for all of the governmental aspects of working in the CDC community - the processes, the acronyms, and so on. Beyond that, I've been working in the CDC community for over a decade now, with four years at Nevada State Development Corporation and six-years-and-counting at Capital CDC in Texas.
2. What appeals to you about economic development and the work CDCs do?
I only want to do things that have meaning, things that make a difference in some way. Everything we do at our respective CDCs has direct, measurable impact upon the communities we serve. Despite a barrage of news reports on negative economic factors, it is fulfilling to know that we are helping small businesses grow, helping them create jobs in our communities, helping these business owners realize their dreams. I make it a point to patronize local businesses to the fullest extent possible, and it is a great feeling to visit a local restaurant or auto dealership or physician and know that these are not just local businesses, these are businesses that have benefitted from the work of a dedicated team of professionals at a local CDC.
3. What observations have you made about NextGen in the 504 industry?
Change is essential to survival. The CDC industry, the REAL 504 program, even the SBA as an entity - all are vastly different today from what they were like three years ago, much less thirty years ago. Working in this industry entails taking responsibility for keeping pace with the changes and adapting to them, and it also means thinking ahead and looking for ways to facilitate even more change. What I've observed about NextGen thus far exemplifies these concepts. Hilda Kennedy is part of a CDC in a challenging market, and she has shown us all that creative thinking and dedication can effect real change in overlooked communities. Hector Dacosta has actionably demonstrated that a senior person at a CDC in one market can - and should - go out of his way to interact with CDC folks in every other market, and also with the friendly competitors within his own market. Embracing true unity as an industry, focusing on inclusion rather than exclusion, and being prepared not only to accept but actually to effect changes that will benefit all of us - and, by extension, a vast number of small businesses across the country - seem to me like the best ways to ensure our survival, and I have seen these concepts in action from the initial NextGen designees.
4. Can you list some of your best practices that you utilize to support Capital CDC's NextGen?
Adapting to change. It's easy to get caught up in the "we used to do it this way" line of thinking, but that does no one any good. SBA has been making significant changes to the REAL 504 program over the past few years, with more changes coming. While it may be necessary for the industry to seek ways to scale back some of that change, it is just as necessary to face other changes with positivity, use the changes as tools for good changes of our own. The SMART system and recent adjustments in the way SLPC reviews credit memos are two great examples. How can our organization - and, by extension, our customers - benefit from these changes? We can redouble our focus on solid financial analyses of our applicant businesses, we can implement a Quality Control checkpoint to ensure that we are submitting the best applications possible, we can utilize emerging technology to ensure the safety of our data. Just because we did something a certain way for a long time doesn't mean that it was the best way to do it, and it certainly doesn't mean that it's the only way to do it.
5. What unique skills/abilities do NextGen have that can be beneficial to the industry as a whole?
The CDC industry, at least as it applies to the REAL 504 loan program, is well seasoned at this point. Many of our industry leaders have dedicated the past thirty years or more to their respective CDCs and to the CDC community through NADCO and other means. Their collective experience and knowledge is essential to the industry's continued existence and success. NextGen is just as essential. Cultivating the same level of dedication that our existing leadership has shown in a new generation of CDC professionals is the only way to keep the industry alive. Some things that NextGen leaders can bring to the table include having comfort levels with emerging technologies and with the very concept of an ever-changing world around them, embracing and even helping to enact continual changes at SBA and in the CDC industry, and being aware of past mistakes experienced in the industry so they won't be repeated.
6. How do you hope to see the industry progress in coming generations?
In short, positively. I would like nothing more than to see both Congress and the SBA come to realize how energizing it would be for the CDC industry and for small businesses across the nation if they were to revitalize the REAL 504 loan program by enacting changes to make it the first-choice financing option for a majority of commercial real estate transactions. In a perfect world, these changes would include permanent full-debt refi provisions, the ability for CDCs to refinance their own seasoned loans in applicable scenarios, and enhancements that would make REAL 504 loans more attractive than other SBA and non-SBA loan products to CDC lending partners.