McMahon ventures to promote small businesses under Trump

LINDA MCMAHON, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, visited the Rhode Island district office in February./ SBA RHODE ISLAND/ RYAN P. BRISSETTE
LINDA MCMAHON, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, visited the Rhode Island district office in February./ SBA RHODE ISLAND/ RYAN P. BRISSETTE

PROVIDENCE – Linda McMahon, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, says President Donald Trump chose her to lead the federal agency because he wanted a person who knows the ins and outs of business.

A member of Trump’s cabinet, McMahon visited the SBA Rhode Island district office on Thursday and sat down for an interview with Providence Business News. She talked about working for Trump, and how she’s trying to promote the interests of small businesses throughout the country.

“Look, I’ve been bankrupt, but I’ve also lived the American dream,” McMahon said. “I think that’s what the president was looking for.”

Since the U.S. Senate confirmed her a year ago this month, McMahon – the former president and CEO of the World Wrestling Enterprise Inc., or WWE – has traveled to district offices throughout the country on what she’s calling an “ignite tour.”

- Advertisement -

“It’s to have business roundtables, to meet with small-business owners and to visit some of their businesses because I want to be able to advocate on behalf of all the 30 million small businesses around the country,” she explained.

Rhode Island marks the 34th district office she’s visited so far and while she hadn’t yet met with any local business owners, McMahon said a lot of the challenges facing small-business owners are the same throughout the country.

“It’s about access to capital, it’s about knowing how to develop a business plan for producing a product or delivering a service. These things are pretty consistent,” McMahon said.

The SBA, which offers various lending programs for small-business owners and free professional development programs, counts 98,134 small business in Rhode Island (those employing less than 500 people) totaling 98.9 percent of all companies. The small business community employs 53.5 percent – or 225,671 – of all Rhode Island workers.

The agency, McMahon highlighted, can help new and growing businesses work through what she characterizes as the “perils” of business. And for someone who remembers sharing a desk with her husband, Vince McMahon, during the fledgling days of WWE, McMahon said it’s her goal to make the SBA “not the best kept secret in the country.”

“My husband and I learned more by the school of hard knocks, but that’s not always the right way,” McMahon said.

Vince McMahon, the current chairman and CEO of WWE, recently announced plans to bring back the now-defunct XFL, a professional American football league, starting in 2020. The league played one season in 2001. When asked whether the XFL might consider a franchise in Rhode Island, Linda McMahon responded with a laugh.

“You’re asking the wrong McMahon on that one,” she quipped.

For 2018, McMahon said the SBA will focus on the advancement of rural enterprises, workforce development and women-owned businesses. Promoting a more tenable pathway for individuals to succeed in the workforce – regardless of educational background – is also high on her list of priorities.

“For any student who wants or needs a college education, go for it, we’ll help you get there,” McMahon said. “But so many jobs don’t require that, so we shouldn’t look down on those jobs because they’re wonderful opportunities.”

She’s also optimistic the interests of the small-business community will play an integral role in the federal government’s agenda moving forward.

“We’re very fortunate to have a president who is so supportive of small business,” McMahon said. “He’s very attentive to listening to the views and ideas of the members of the cabinet, and therefore we are able to put issues – of course not every one – but the primary issues in front of him and others.”

Eli Sherman is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Sherman@PBN.com, or follow him on Twitter @Eli_Sherman.