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Company Town : PROFILE : Big Plans for Small Businesses


If it were up to Alberto Alvarado, the Los Angeles office of the Small Business Administration would be adequately staffed, efficient and able to quickly respond to every loan application it receives, including those from minority and female applicants who have historically had problems qualifying for loans.

Unfortunately, concedes Alvarado, who was recently named director of the federal agency's local office, his operation is not yet able to meet such goals. For one thing, he said in a recent interview, the office has not done a good job of helping minority and female business owners.

"The facts are the facts. We have not reached out to those communities, and we have to. Under my leadership, that's going to occur," said Alvarado, a 42-year-old native of East Los Angeles.

Other problems in the local office, he added, are understaffing and cumbersome procedures imposed by the national office. The unwieldy process has long been a criticism applied generally to the agency designed to help small businesses start up or expand.

"I'm open to criticism, but I'm also proud of the work this office has done and can do," said Alvarado, who managed the Los Angeles office's legal division for 13 years before his appointment to the top job in August.

Among his priorities, he said, is establishing a more comprehensive plan to deal with the SBA's poor track record of helping minority- and female-owned businesses. Included in his plan, he said, are increased contacts with business owners to seek their ideas on improving service.

Earlier this week, Alvarado hosted a minority enterprise development breakfast for more than 300 minority entrepreneurs, corporate executives and lenders.


On a national level, the SBA wants to double by mid-1995 the amount in loans it provides to women and minorities. Last year, both groups combined received less than 25% of the $6.4 billion in loans made by the agency.

SBA officials say they believe the agency will reach more eligible minorities and women by increasing the availability of loans of less than $25,000, because those groups tend to have businesses that qualify for smaller loan amounts.

"Alberto's broad management skills, experience in complex business and legal matters and familiarity with local issues make him uniquely qualified to deal with our constituency throughout the Los Angeles community," SBA Administrator Erskine B. Bowles said in a statement.

Alvarado, who grew up in Boyle Heights, is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford Law School. Before joining the SBA as a staff attorney in 1978, he was a clerk for the California Court of Appeals and served as a congressional aide.

Local business people who have dealt with Alvarado generally give him good marks.

Alvarado's experience will help significantly in resolving some of the Los Angeles office's problems, said James Whitney, a senior vice president of American Pacific State Bank in Sherman Oaks who has worked with the local SBA office since 1970.

Whitney said Alvarado improved the office's legal affairs department despite a reduction in staff, and he expects the entire local operation to improve under his leadership.

"Alberto Alvarado is a star among his peers," Whitney said. "He's lived through the problems and knows the things that are needed."

In his new job, Alvarado heads an office with 56 permanent employees. He will oversee the administration of a business loan portfolio of more than $1 billion.

Alvarado said he has requested staff additions. Although the response from his superiors has been positive, he said, the SBA may not have the money to expand.

Meanwhile, to ease the burden on his overworked staff, Alvarado said, he is looking for ways to further streamline SBA procedures to provide better service.

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