WILKES-BARRE – The grand opening of the U.S. Small Business Administration branch office couldn't have come at a better time for state Sen. John Yudichak.
The Democrat from Plymouth Township along with other elected officials, representatives of the area's federal lawmakers, bankers and economic development officials welcomed the federal agency to its fourth-floor office in the Stegmaier building on North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and urged it to get to work getting people back to work. The agency took over the office of former U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, almost a year ago, but furnished it only recently.
The SBA had a local office during the recovery from Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. It assisted with the flood recovery from Tropical Storm Lee last year, bringing more than $25 million in funding to Northeastern Pennsylvania, Yudichak said.
"You're going to be a critical part of another important recovery effort," Yudichak said. "In the last two years Northeastern Pennsylvania has led the state with the highest unemployment rate. That's simply unacceptable. It's gotta change."
The latest data from the state Department of Labor and Industry reported an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region in June. "You're going to help us grow the economy and I hope we can celebrate next year and say we are no longer the highest unemployment rate in the state," he said.
David Dickson, district director of the SBA for 40 counties in eastern Pennsylvania, accepted the welcome and offered the agency's support. The local office has an able manager in Robert Maximowicz, a Pringle native, Dickson added.
"The U.S. Small Business Administration, we actually try to help people get financing," Dickson said. "We help people get counseling through our resource partners. We help people get government contracts. We help people learn how to export. We do all sorts of different services."
He pointed to the success of Sean Kelly and Jody McGrail, owners of Sonic restaurants in Wilkes-Barre, Hazle Township and Scranton. The business owners worked with the SBA on getting started and growing.
What: The U.S. Small Business Administration branch office
Where: 7 N. Wilkes-Barre Blvd., Suite 4M Stegmaier building
Who: Robert Maximowicz, branch office manager