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SBA Honors Arizona's Entrepreneurs and Small Business Champions

Monday, March 19, 2012   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Rhette Baughman
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PHOENIX – In celebration of Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration is honoring Arizona entrepreneurs and small business champions for their contributions to the economy. Over 97 percent of the businesses in the state are small businesses and have proven, year after year, to be the greatest sources of the innovation, jobs and growth that is needed to fuel Arizona’s dynamic economy.

"Each year the SBA has the honor of spotlighting Arizona winners of our Small Business Week awards in a ceremony that recognizes and celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and community activism that has long characterized the small business community of our great state,” said Robert J. Blaney, the District Director of the SBA in Arizona. "These men and women are the risk takers, the innovators and the employers that power our economy and daily serve our communities in business and as local leaders.”

On May 1 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, a formal ceremony will be conducted to present awards to Arizona’s Small Business Person of the Year, Small Business Exporter of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year, Minority and Small Business Champion of the Year, Women in Business Champion of the Year, Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year, and Financial Services Champion of the Year.

Winners of awards at the state level compete with winners from other states for similar awards on a regional basis. Regional winners then go on to compete for national awards presented at ceremonies in Washington, DC May 20 through 26, during national Small Business Week.

On May 1, awards will be presented to Arizona’s Small Business Week winners in a ceremony at the Arizona Biltmore which will be hosted by the Arizona Small Business Association.


Arizona’s winners:


2012 Arizona Small Business Person of the Year
Chandler, AZ


The winner of this award is an individual who owns and operates, or bears principal responsibility for operating, a small business. Partners who jointly own and operate a small business may be nominated as a "team”, so long as the number of individuals in the team nomination does not exceed four.

This year’s Small Business Person is Zeferino Banda, owner of Banda Group International (BGI) of Chandler.

It happens all the time. An experienced employee reaches a point in their career when they believe that their skills are marketable and that it makes sense to test that idea. With a leap of faith they strike out on their own starting a small business.

That was the case for Zeferino Banda of Banda Group International (BGI). A certified safety professional with nearly two decades of experience and a master’s degree in safety, Banda’s diverse career had taken him from jobs in the aviation industry to work with Sandia National Labs, and from Turner Construction Company to stints with the Intel Corporation.

He says that he always knew he wanted to start his own company so, in 2003 Mr. Banda decided to apply his expertise to his own consulting company and created BGI.

Zeferino had recognized a business opportunity while working on a large semi-conductor project in Ireland. He realized that large manufacturing and construction firms needing to provide Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) personnel for their projects and could do so by hiring consultants rather than incurring the costs of full time employees.

The formula worked and the firm is now a growing environmental health, safety and technical consulting company headquartered in Chandler, Arizona with offices in Rio Rancho, New Mexico and Austin, Texas.

In addition to providing services across the country, this emerging global company has conducted projects in Algeria, China, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Mexico and Venezuela.

In 2007, the firm received SBA 8(a) certification. Among the government contracts BGI has won is a five-year NASA contract at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Working as a sub-contractor, BGI is also providing occupational safety support services for the Transportation Safety Administration.

BGI’s success has been recognized beyond its client base. Hispanic Business Magazine last year counted BGI in its list of the 500 largest Hispanic-owned firms by revenue at 455th. BGI was also ranked 60th of the 100 fastest growing Hispanic businesses and 48th out of the top 50 Hispanic business exporters.


2012 Arizona Small Business Exporter of the Year
Tempe, AZ


The winner of this award is an individual who has demonstrated increased sales, profits and/or growth of employment because of exporting.

This year’s Small Business Exporter of the Year is Dr. Manuel Padilla, President of Geotechnical Consulting and Testing Systems L.L.C. (GCTS) of Tempe Arizona. Dr. Padilla holds a doctorate degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Arizona State University. His experience as a project engineer in the structural design of steel and concrete buildings laid the foundation upon which he would later build his own business.

But when it came to developing the products he would offer in the marketplace, his role as senior engineer for Structural and Behavior Engineering Laboratories where he was in charge the development and design of testing systems was perhaps more formative.

In business now for over seventeen years, GCTS is among the leading providers of advanced geo-mechanical laboratory testing equipment in the world and exports to customers in countries across the globe including China, India and Brazil. Its testing equipment is used in a wide variety of industries such as oil and gas exploration, infrastructure development, water conservation and environmental protection, alternative energy production, road surface coatings including asphalt and nuclear and other toxic waste disposal.

All of these industries rely on systems that test the reliability, workability and durability of their products. Whether the products be in the design and development stage or already in the marketplace, they rely on testing systems like the ones GCTS produces to assure they meet or exceed required standards and quality.

As a result of his success Dr. Padilla has grown his company from a single employee to seventeen today. His search for growth opportunities doesn’t stop at the water’s edge or in the development laboratory. He travels extensively to train new clients on how to use GCTS equipment and as a result has developed software products that help multicultural end users. Such rigorous customer service has also helped him expand the uses and efficiency of his testing systems.


2012 Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year
Tucson, AZ

The winner of this award is a business that has increased employment opportunities for family members and non-family members, demonstrated long-term business success and economic growth measured by sales and profits, and helps strengthen family-owned businesses within the community.

This year’s Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business is AGM Container Controls of Tucson, Arizona. Established in 1970, AGM Container Controls manufactures environmental hardware for containers that hold missiles and other sensitive equipment. It also manufactures Ascension wheelchair lifts to enable people with disabilities to reach stages and platforms in public facilities. In 2009, AGM was honored by the U.S Chamber of Commerce with the "America’s Best Small Business” award.

Howard Stewart, the current President of AGM who took over from his parents Joyce and Roger Stewart, has engendered a true family culture as the business has grown. The AGM family is dedicated to providing quality products and unsurpassed customer service, and as a result, success and growth have followed. Revenues since Howard took over have grown from $4 million to $17 million. The number of employees has grown too with the most significant growth occurring from 2010 to 2011 when the number of employees jumped from 23 to 116.

The uniqueness of the company is not just its products and employees but also its management’s dedication to its employees. Over the past 20 years, with careful planning and creative thinking AGM has completely avoided layoffs. That loyalty to its employees accounts for high retention and when coupled with a focus on cross training and an education benefit of $5200 per year, has resulted in employees moving from receptionist to manager and shipping clerk to business development director.


2012 Arizona Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Scottsdale, AZ

To be considered a young entrepreneur, the individual must serve as a majority owner and operate or bear principal responsibility for operating a small business with a three year track record, and who will not have reached the age of thirty by June 1, 2012.

This year’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year is Virgilia Kaur Singh, CEO of MIB Consultants. Virgilia is, to say the least, a young over achiever. Her resume is replete with references proving that including: graduated high school at 15; internship with Senator Jon Kyl; writer of policy briefs on education, healthcare, transportation, global women’s rights, and participant in a global study on women’s micro-financing for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s Women’s Empowerment Action Team.

It’s no surprise then that Virgilia’s interest led her to the Thunderbird School of Global Management and that her focus was on strategy and emerging markets, or that she worked for Booz Allen on cloud computing afterward.

With MIB Consultants she helps mom and pop shops and early-stage startups with business model development, marketing and bringing products to market. But that’s just not enough for Virgilia. She has three other lines of business.

With Exhale Health, Virgilia has provided a mobile platform that connects users to alternative healthcare practitioners. And with So What’s On Your Plate, she’s developed a community of working women that collaborate to help each other on personal and community projects.

The success of one of her adventures has already allowed her graduate to other endeavors. Called the "MTV of the Overachieving Generation” by Inc. Magazine GenJuice was developed as a way for 20-somethings to always stay abreast of the latest online trends and trendsetting blogs, allowing them to "stay up on the juice.” Having grown the company to over 100 partners and staff, Virgilia has moved on.



2012 Arizona Minority Small Business Champion of the Year
Tucson, AZ

The winner of this award is an individual who has fulfilled a commitment to support minority entrepreneurship and has demonstrated efforts to improve conditions in the minority small business community as a whole.

This year’s Minority Small Business Champion is Lea Marques Peterson of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber. Under Lea’s leadership over the past two years, the chamber has doubled in size to over 700 businesses, launched an international division with a satellite office in Hermosillo, Mexico and launched a Chamber Business University offering bilingual and online classes in all business disciplines.

In addition, the Chamber launched a non-partisan candidate academy to help individuals considering a run for public office prepare for the challenge. It has also forged collaborative agreements with Mexican chambers such as Canaco Hermosillo, Canaco Nogales, Comparmex Hermosillo, and Canacintra Herimosillo to assist its members in developing export markets.

To assist both Hispanic and non-Hispanic businesses alike in understanding the unique dynamics of the Hispanic marketplace, Lea helped bring the DATOS event to Tucson. An annual presentation on buying trends among Hispanics, DATOS provides an analysis of Hispanic demographics and cultural sensitivities to assist businesses in finding ways to connect with the growing Hispanic population.

A dynamic leader in the community, one of Lea’s goals is to increase diversity in leadership positions in both public and private arenas and as a result brought the Hispanic Leadership Institute to Tucson. Her achievements have brought wide recognition including a recent appointment by President Obama to the National Woman’s Business Council which advised the President, Congress and the SBA on issues facing women-owned small businesses in the nation.

In addition, she brings her own personal entrepreneurial experience to the job as owner of which assists buyers and sellers of businesses in Tucson.



2012 Arizona Women in Business Champion of the Year
Tucson, AZ

The winner of this award is an individual who has fulfilled a commitment to the advancement of women’s business ownership and has demonstrated efforts to increase business and financial opportunities for women.

This year’s Women in Business Champion is Janet Marcotte, Executive Director of the YWCA in Tucson. The YWCA of Tucson has been serving the community for 95 years. While the YWCA’s mission is to empower women, eliminate racism, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, the mission in Tucson has also focused on supporting the area’s workforce by providing training in such areas as financial literacy, leadership development and business ownership.

Janet has served as the Executive Director in Tucson for twenty-four years. Under her leadership the organization has developed nationally recognized programs in women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, and financial education. It now provides services to more that 21,000 individuals annually. She started the Women on the Move awards program thirty years ago to honor extraordinary women business owners and leaders in the community.

Further demonstrating her commitment to women in business, the organization will shift its core focus in 2012 to economic development by offering programs that promote entrepreneurship, economic development, self sufficiency, leadership development and educational achievement.

Like many entrepreneurs, Janet’s own eclectic background helped forge her success. In addition to serving as President of the National Association of YWCA Executives, Janet has worked in child welfare, adoption, foster care, juvenile justice, advertising, public relations and publishing.



2012 Arizona Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year
Tucson, AZ

The winner of this award is an individual who has fulfilled a commitment to advancing small business opportunities for Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, actively supported legislation or regulation designed to help Veteran owned small businesses, or advocated special consideration for Veteran owned small businesses.

This year’s Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year is Tom Shambo of the Microbusiness Advancement Center’s Small Business Development Center.

An Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, Tom has always demonstrated a commitment to help fellow veterans with all manner of life and professional challenges. As Director of the Small Business Development Center in Tucson, his dedication helped many veteran-owned small businesses start, grow and succeed.

He has been a familiar face on Davis Monthan Air Force Base during the Transition Assistance Program which is designed to help active duty service members transition to civilian life and with his help, perhaps into the world of entrepreneurship.

As director, Tom helped the center receive an award under the Veterans’ Grant Program. This program is designed to benefit and inform veterans throughout the state of Arizona regarding potential business opportunities. Tom personally took the initiative to develop and hold a conference for veterans on behalf of the entire AZSBDC state network.

On his personal time, Tom is developing a non-profit veteran’s investment fund, which will seek donations and use a "crowd funding” approach for the purpose of making investments in promising veteran-owned small businesses.

Tom reminds everyone with whom he communicates about the sacrifice made by veterans by closing every personal e-mail message with "A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America” for an amount of "up to and including my life”. That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.”



2012 Arizona Women’s Business Center of Excellence
Tucson, AZ

This award honors a Women’s Business Center (WBC) for its excellence and innovation in assisting women entrepreneurs by providing a wide variety of training and counseling.

This year’s Women Business Center of Excellence award goes to the Microbusiness Advancement Center’s Women’s Business Center of Tucson. Since 2000 the Women’s Business Center has offered professional assistance to aspiring and established business owners alike. The Center offers training in both Spanish and English, making it unique among other business resource providers in the area.

Last year alone, the Center provided training and counseling to over 1200 clients, helped create over 500 new jobs, and assisted its clients in obtaining over $9 million in loans. The Center serves all comers, but the majority of its clients are women. It offers training in all manner of business disciplines though its renowned ten-week business planning courses.

Other training courses offered include: Tech Tools for Marketing, Technology Basics, Pricing Strategies, the Business of Childcare, and Profiting from Financial Statements.

Of added benefit to its clients is the relationship the Women’s Business Center has with its sister organization the Small Business Development Center. T he two are collocated and are hosted by the same parent agency – the Microbusiness Advancement Center. As such they offer clients easy access the vast expertise of both organizations in a collaborative environment.




2012 Arizona Financial Services Champion of the Year
Phoenix, AZ

The winner of this award is an individual who assists small business owners in providing the amount and quality of assistance required to obtain financing to advance small business interests.

This year’s Financial Services Champion is Karen Goettl, Vice President and Regional Loan Operations Manager of Western Alliance Bank. Karen manages an SBA department that aggressively seeks to find beneficial solutions to help small businesses grow by obtaining the capital they need. She routinely helps businesses obtain loans under various SBA loan programs including the SBA Express, CAP Line, and the 7(a) programs. As a result the loans provided have helped entrepreneurs purchase a business, buy real estate, and obtain the working capital they need to grow and succeed.

Karen also works closely with rural lenders and has headed up a bank effort to offer SBA Export loans that are designed to help businesses cover the costs of exporting their products overseas.

For the year ending September 2011, Karen generated nearly thirty SBA loans totaling over $20 million in value.


2012 Arizona SCORE Chapter of the Year
Tucson, AZ

SCORE Chapter 689, the Southern Arizona SCORE Chapter in Tucson, is no stranger to the hundreds of clients annually helped by its counselors. This year’s SBA award serves to codify that reputation and celebrates the Chapter’s contributions to the ongoing success of entrepreneurs throughout Pima and Santa Cruz Counties.

SCORE is a truly unique national organization that impacts the economy exclusively through the good efforts of volunteer counselors. A resource partner of the SBA, SCORE as a national organization, has been around since 1964 and currently counts over 13,000 volunteer business counselors among its ranks. Chapter 689 boasts over 50 such volunteers who bring free, accurate, confidential and timely business counseling to small businesses, and offer a near infinite mix of real world business, corporate and life experiences and time-tested knowledge.


2012 Arizona Small Business Development Center of Excellence
Yuma, AZ

This award honors a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for its excellence in providing value to small businesses and advancing program delivery and management through innovation. Among the many characteristics examined are a Center’s record of new business creation, capital infusion, counseling success, job creation, and program and training innovation.

Arizona’s network of 11 service centers is a partnership between the state’s community college districts and the SBA. These centers serve thousands of clients annually through business training programs and free, one-on-one confidential counseling by counselors who use their real-life business ownership and management experience to offer practical and relevant advice.

The Arizona Western College SBDC in Yuma won the award this year for its record of success, innovation and economic impact. Center Director Randy Nelson’s personal background – MBA in management and marketing, business professor, restaurant owner, middle manager in the plastics manufacturing industry and a vice president with Budget Rent-A-Car – typifies the experience Center counselors offer clients.

The Center offers counseling workshops in both Spanish and English, and offers expertise in accounting, marketing, technology, import/export, procurement, compliance issues and financial analysis. These are in addition to the fundamentals of business plan development, marketing strategies, strategic planning, research, patents, procurement registration and certification, and personnel management.

Social Marketing Strategy is among the new focuses the Center offers, helping businesses understand how websites, email marketing and traditional marketing are complimented by social media marketing using Twitter, FaceBook, and Google Apps.

Under Randy’s direction, the Arizona Western College Center in 2011 helped start over twenty new businesses, create over 150 jobs and increase sales among the businesses counseled by nearly $12 million. He and his team have built a legacy of excellence and a reputation for innovation and community involvement in Yuma, the surrounding area and among their peers throughout the state.

- - -

Awards will be presented in a ceremony hosted by the Arizona Small Business Association on May 1 at the Arizona Biltmore. For further information, please contact the Arizona Small Business Association at 602-306-4000.

19th Annual Enterprise Business Award Luncheon


Full Table (10 Seats)
ASBA Member: $500 | Non-Member: $550
Half Table (5 Seats)
ASBA Member: $225 | Non-Member: $275

Individual Seat
ASBA Member: $50 | Non-Member: $60


Gabriel Salcido, Arizona Small Business Association says...
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Congratulations to all the winners! Looking forward to the Enterprise Business Award Luncheon.

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