Chamber welcomes SBA boss to the Valley

BOARDMAN — Attendees at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s annual “Salute to Business” at Mr. Anthony’s on Thursday morning celebrated the impact small business has on the Mahoning Valley while learning how such businesses are being represented in the nation’s capital.

Linda McMahon, the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, delivered a keynote address lauding the president’s actions on the economy and their effects on the 30 million American small businesses.

“It’s great to have a president who understands business,” said McMahon, who noted that unemployment is the lowest it has been in 18 years.

McMahon also said optimism abounds among entrepreneurs these days, evidenced by the $48 billion in loan guarantees to small business owners since President Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. Thanks to President Trump’s tax cuts, McMahon said, most small businesses can deduct more of their income than before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last December.

McMahon, who was co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, spoke briefly of her experience as a small business owner. WWE began as a small, regional company with 13 employees and has grown into an international, publicly traded organization with offices all over the world.

McMahon recalled a time when she had to clean an arena bathroom by herself in order to show an employee how to do so properly.

“CEOs have to get into the mix sometimes,” McMahon said.

Following her address, McMahon toured City Machine Technologies, Inc., a Youngstown-based industrial machine maintenance facility that repairs electric motors, generators, steel mills and power plants.

“This is what America’s about,” said McMahon. “Small businesses doing hard work.”

She said President Trump is very dedicated to helping grow skills needed to work at places like City Machine Technologies, Inc. McMahon said it is important to use vocational and technical education opportunities.

“We need to train workers,” said McMahon. “Those jobs are ready.”

Owner Mike Kovach, who displayed an industrial magnet at the White House’s Made in America showcase last month, said he received SBA support to start his business in the 1980s.

“To say the SBA was a part of our success would be an understatement,” said Kovach.

In the wake of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Kovach said he increased wages. With 65 employees, Kovach said he is looking for 20 more hires.

But finding those new employees may prove to be a challenge. Kovach said at least 50 percent of new employees fail drug tests.

“We need good skilled people,” said Kovach. “But we definitely need to get youth to stop using marijuana and other drugs.”