May 19, 2019
WATERLOO — Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-1st District, toured five minority-owned businesses in the Cedar Valley on Saturday.
She started at El Patron in Waterloo and then went to Spellers True Value, Earth’s Beauty Supply, 2 Scoops and ending at Cottonwood Canyon in Cedar Falls.
At Cottonwood Canyon, Finkenauer spoke with Ajeh Agbese of Catch A Ride or C.A.R. Services about being a minority business owner.
It can be tough getting established, Agbese said. People often choose businesses that cost more. “You almost have to prove yourself before people give you the business,” Agbese said.
Finkenauer presided over a portion of the Congressional Small Business Committee hearing titled “Honoring Our Nation’s Small Business Heroes” last week.
She wants to make sure small business leaders know about opportunities and programs on the local, state and federal level.
“One of the things that we heard often was that there are programs available and some folks were able to access those and it helped them grow, and then others said there are issues with making sure that those programs are being connected to the community and that folks know that they even exist,” Finkenauer said. “Oftentime that connection to the folks that actually need them has been missing.”
She wants to work on getting small business owners familiar with beneficial programs so they stay in Iowa and don’t move to other states.
“Low unemployment sounds great, but when you’re back here and talking to folks in our community it’s oftentimes a different story, especially in our rural communities,” she said. “You’ve got our farmers being hurt every single day because of a trade war started a year ago where there doesn’t seem to be a real resolution coming anytime soon.”
During her conversation with Allen Speller at Spellers True Value she and Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart talked about programs like the Small Business Development Center. Finkenauer wanted to know what her Small Business Committee could do better to reach people like Speller. He suggested a program to help people develop after their brainstorming stage.
“You don’t learn a lot of the ins and outs until you’re in an actual business setting,” Speller said. “I heard all the stories about how East Fourth Street used to be a very economical area for the community, and I’d like to build that backup. I’d like to see that again.”
Speller also worked with a Goldman Sachs small business program out of Ames.
“It takes folks willing to come back home and invest in the community and start businesses where they’re needed,” Finkenauer said.