When Dan Nordberg was asked whether he'd be interested in a position with the Trump administration, he had one role in mind: regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"A very robust application process and several interviews later, I was fortunate to be offered that position," Nordberg said. He assumed the role in early January after vacating his seat in the state Legislature; Nordberg, a Colorado Springs Republican, had been in his third term as state representative serving House District 14. He was a member of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee and had been its ranking member since 2015.
Before his election in 2012, Nordberg was district director for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, serving as liaison to Colorado's business community and federal and state agencies. While dealing with the SBA in that role, he "just was really impressed with the mission, the organization, as well as the staff members I interacted with. This whole concept that there's a government agency designed to strengthen the U.S. economy by advocating for small business, that's a mission I deeply believe in."
As the SBA's Region VIII administrator, Nordberg oversees delivery of the agency's services in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and South and North Dakota. "It's been good, but very busy," he said of his first month on the job. In the past weeks, he's visited communities across Colorado and the region on "kind of a listening tour. Oftentimes, government does a great job dictating," he said, "but we don't always do a good job listening."
Nordberg discussed his new job and various topics in a phone interview with The Gazette:
- The SBA's role: With small businesses comprising about 99 percent of all business in this country, he said, "I absolutely believe there should be an agency in government that is serving on their behalf and advocating for them."
He referred to the SBA's "three C's and a D." The three C's are capital, providing help with funding; contracting, helping businesses connect with federal contracting opportunities; and counseling, with free education, technical assistance and training. D is for disaster relief; the SBA offers low-interest loans to help small businesses and homeowners recover from federally declared disasters.
- The uniqueness of Region VIII. The six-state region covers more than 500,000 square miles - the largest region in the SBA - and is also the most rural. "While the economies in urban areas are seeing strong growth, that is not always translated to the rural areas," Nordberg said. One of his priorities is bridging that "urban-rural gap" and ensuring that rural areas have the same access to services.
- The role of regulation. "I don't think anyone would disagree that you need to have a regulatory environment in place for business," Nordberg said, "specifically in respect to public safety issues. However, the pendulum can definitely swing to where those regulations are just a burden on business and a burden on job creation."
That's where the SBA's Office of Advocacy plays a key role, he said; the office works to advance the views and concerns of small business before Congress, the White House, federal agencies and state policy makers.
- The nation's skilled labor shortage. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to increase apprenticeships, Nordberg said, and many state and business organizations have established programs to tackle the issue, Nordberg said. "I think there's a great opportunity for the SBA to partner with those new programs, as well as our post-secondary education network," he said. Along with skills training provided by those programs, "we can come alongside them and help those students also become proficient in entrepreneurship and running a small business."
- Landing a Veterans Business Outreach Center. The Catalyst Campus for Technology & Innovation in Colorado Springs is vying to house a regional Veterans Business Outreach Center that would serve Colorado and New Mexico. "They have put in a very strong application package to host that facility," said Nordberg, who expects a decision by the end of spring. "Certainly it would be an ideal place to host it."