For many entrepreneurs and small business owners from the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities, the impacts of COVID have been devastating. A national study released in March of last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that among older small business owners nationally (age 45+), 90% of Asian-owned firms reported year-over-year revenue decline – the highest percentage compared to white (77%), Black/African American (85%) and Hispanic (81%) owned companies.

At the same time, the rise in hate crimes and racism directed at AANHPI communities since the pandemic has taken a serious toll. The New York Times reported in October that the Pew Research Center found a third of Asian Americans surveyed are still afraid of being attacked and noted that in the nation’s largest cities, anti-Asian hate crimes have skyrocketed by 164% from the first quarter of 2020 to 2021.

The convergence of economic calamity and racial bias make recovery from the pandemic for AANHPI small businesses particularly difficult and challenging.

AANHPI owned businesses represent a large and growing footprint in Washington State.  Asian American’s own more than 58,000 of our businesses. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders represent another nearly 1,800 entrepreneurs. Combined, AANHPI owned businesses account for nearly half of all minority-owned and almost 10% of all businesses in our state.  Furthermore, from 2010-2019, AANHPI population grew by 382,000. This was the fourth largest state increase across the nation.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to advancing equity and opportunity for AANHPI communities across the country and we at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can play a critical role in economic recovery and resiliency for our nation’s small businesses, and especially for underserved entrepreneurs.

Our financing tools are designed to enable access to working capital for those that may not be able to secure traditional loans from a commercial bank. Our network of resource partners provides free counseling services and technical assistance to small businesses for a wide range of needs.

But perhaps the greatest opportunity lies in government contracting. The Federal government has contracted for more than $41B in goods and services from Washington State businesses over the past three years. But less than 1% of these dollars have gone to AANHPI owned firms.

While this deep disparity is troubling, I see it as a tremendous opportunity to certify, educate and build capacity for more small, disadvantaged businesses to compete for and secure federal contracts. The Federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. This can include everything from office supplies to construction to catering for example and in many cases, there are statutory set-aside requirements for small, minority and women owned businesses.

Recently, I started a series of conversations with AANHPI community members to build awareness around SBA programs and the services provided by our resource partners. Last month my team and I held roundtable discussions with AANHPI small business owners in Bellevue, WA, Portland, OR and Juneau, AK.

What struck me was how strong and palpable the energy, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit was in the room. But equally revealing was how limited the awareness was of SBA’s programs and resources. We plan to continue hosting similar roundtable conversations and visits with AANHPI and other ethnic chambers of commerce across the entire region.  Our aim will be to leverage these conversations to reach as many small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs as possible to accelerate recovery, spur innovation and access to new markets and revenue opportunities.

Meaningful and effective recovery from the pandemic will require focus and intentionality.  That’s why I am extremely excited that over the next few months, the International Examiner will highlight five entrepreneurs from the AANHPI community in the Pacific Northwest and share their experience working with the SBA and how these programs can help small businesses.

Please reach out to me if you or your organization would like more information about our programs or are interested in meeting with our local SBA team. Our Pacific Northwest Regional Office, located in Seattle, WA, can be reached at 206-553-5231.  Together, we will work to ensure an equitable recovery for the AANHPI community in Washington State. Follow our office on Twitter: @SBAPacificNW

Mike Fong is Pacific Northwest Regional Administrator for the Small Business Administration (SBA). The Pacific Northwest Region includes the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington. He was appointed by President Biden in November of 2021 and started in his new role in January of 2022. Previously he has served as Chief Recovery and Resilience Officer for Snohomish County and Senior Deputy Mayor for the City of Seattle.

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