Linda McMahon, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, visited small businesses in Utah as part of a two-year national outreach campaign.
"I’m here because Utah is one of the best states in the country for small businesses, and that’s just fantastic".
President Donald Trump appointed McMahon to lead the SBA last December. The position places McMahon as a member of the president's Cabinet.
She and her staff toured Manuel's Fine Foods, a local company in Woods Cross.
"I want to take all the questions and all the information I get back to Washington and really advocate in behalf of all small businesses," McMahon said.
One of the employees, Emilio Torres, is the great-grandson of the company's founder. He started working at the family business mowing lawns. After moving up the ranks, he now works as a quality assurance technician.
"It’s great to see something that my great-grandpa started, not knowing where it was going to go, to see it turn out how big it is today".
His great-grandfather, Manuel Torres, opened Manuel's Fine Foods in 1938, a Latino-owned business that manufactures tortilla products for Mexican restaurants and private labels like Don Julio and Kroger Private Selection brands.
Torres brothers Paul, Mike and Orlando own and run the family business.
"We’re appreciative that (McMahon) came into town," said company President Orlando Torres. "We had our building add-on financed through the SBA and Wells Fargo, and we're excited to be able to expand our warehouse.”
McMahon also visited Porcupine Pub and Grille in Salt Lake City and spoke with company co-owner Bryan O'Meara.
"The Small Business Administration really helped us make this whole thing possible," O'Meara said.
The pub and eatery opened at the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon in 1998, followed by an additional location near the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
"The help we got and the fact they were able to be flexible enough to make a deal like this happen for us in a time frame that was not on their normal schedule is above and beyond."
Over the next two years, McMahon plans to tour the country and visit other small businesses, as well as stop by the 68 SBA district offices.
"I know what that takes," she said of running a small business. "I know the good times and the bad. I know what it’s like to go through bankruptcy and lose everything and come back from that."
She and her husband are co-founders of World Wrestling Entertainment, which grew from a regional operation to a global enterprise. McMahon is the company's former CEO.
McMahon said she chose to tour Manuel’s Fine Foods as the company was recently approved for an SBA 504 loan. In addition to granting loans to small-business owners, she said the SBA has three additional goals: provide education for business owners, ensure 23 percent of federal contacts go to small businesses and advocate for small businesses in Washington.
"We want to educate more of the community about all of the things that SBA does, not only through our guaranteeing of loans but through our counseling and helping get people access to capital."
More than half of all American workers are employed at small businesses, according to the SBA website (https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/manage-your-business/manage-your-finances). There are nearly 28 million small businesses across the country.
"We want to first listen. I want to hear what small businesses have to say to me!"