Linda McMahon, once CEO of World Wrestling, is the chief of the Small Business Administration. She visited Catmedia, a small business in Tucker. Bob Andres /

Small Business Administration chief aiming for more growth

Years ago, when she was running for a Senate seat in Connecticut, Linda McMahon said it would be a good idea to fold the Small Business Administration into the Commerce Department.

An advocate for smaller government, McMahon said her goal was to eliminate ineffective and duplicative programs.

Since that unsuccessful bid for office, the North Carolina native has not only changed her thinking on the SBA, she now oversees the agency.

“I didn’t really know that much about the SBA then,” she said. “Now, everywhere I go, everyone says, ‘Thank goodness that the SBA is an independent agency.’”

The SBA chief has been on something of a national tour – which she says is part listening tour and part lay-down-the-law. Tuesday, McMahon was in Atlanta.

“I’m proud that I’ve been to 46 of the 68 district offices – Atlanta is the 46th,” she said. “They have different styles. They have different cultures. But they all need for the central office to provide some consistency.”

The tour is intended to reinforce what she earlier this year dubbed an “alignment project.”

“So we were all on the same page,” she said. “So they know that they are accountable. I came at it like a CEO would.”

As the co-founder and former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon was criticized by some, who said she was unqualified to head the SBA.

But she argues that her past gave her valuable experience. She was one of the Trump appointees most quickly confirmed, receiving bipartisan support, taking the reigns of the $887 billion-a-year agency early on in the administration.

In Atlanta, McMahon visited the SBA regional offices before trekking to Tucker to drop in on a small business — Catmedia.

Companies like Catmedia validate the agency’s mission, she said. “Two-thirds of the net new jobs in the private sector are created by small businesses.”

Under McMahon, part of the SBA’s mission will be to bolster companies in rural areas. She said she wants to do that — which is “a presidential directive” — without shifting resources away from metro areas like Atlanta.

“We won’t take anything away,” she said.

The SBA’s help has been essential for Catmedia, said owner Catherine Downey.

She founded the company in 1998 and was initially the only employee. But, by 2014, she had expanded to 13 employees. Space was tight at her rented facility in Tucker.

A $627,000 loan from the Small Business Administration allowed her to buy a 6,000-square-foot building. The SBA deal required that she make only a down-payment of 10 percent — half of what was typically needed. And she had 20 years to repay the loan.

Catmedia now has about 35 employees and hires several hundred contractors.

“And I would not be in business today if it were not for the SBA,” Downey said.

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