The SBA was a no-show and female government contractors expressed concerns the stalemate could hurt business.
The government shutdown infused the mood Thursday at the National Association of Women Business Owners’ annual conference in Miami.
The Small Business Administration, which had been scheduled to attend as an “exhibitor,” was a no-show. The agency provides a number of resources for women, including loans, a federal contract program and a network of educational centers called Women’s Business Centers.
The SBA canceled earlier this week as a result of the stalemate, too late for organizers at NAWBO — the nation’s largest women’s business group — to remove the agency’s listing from the conference program, said Christina Jorgensen, a NAWBO spokeswoman. A number of financial institutions that provide SBA loans to women, including Wells Fargo and Bank of America, remained in attendance.
The NAWBO conference draws several hundred attendees, among them female federal contractors who expressed concern that business will dry up as a result of the impasse in Washington.
Tamara Badkerhanian-Ganev, president of BSE Engineering in San Diego, says her business works on projects for the Navy and the Veterans Affairs. “We have a lot of work that has already been budgeted and allocated,” she said. But the shutdown could affect future business. “We may be able to feel it, six months from now,” she said.
Badkerhanian-Ganev added that government work has been “stalling” for several months, so her firm is shifting its focus to private-sector hospitals as a result. “We’ve been anticipating a slowdown,” she said. “[You] have to adjust to market changes.”
At one of the many afternoon panels, a group of former NAWBO presidents briefly discussed the situation in Washington.
Virgina Littlejohn, who served as NAWBO president from 1984 to 1985, suggested that there would be less divisiveness in Washington if more women ran for office. “There’s a great future for women business owners in politics,” she said. “It’s very important we try to rebuild commonality.”