CLEVELAND, Ohio — Working for the Small Business Administration was not a job for Gil Goldberg, it was a calling.
Goldberg, 76, will retire at the end of this month from a role he has held for 28 years: District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Northern Ohio District Office.
“I’ve retired almost as many times as Tom Brady,” jokes Goldberg in his award-filled office on a recent Tuesday afternoon. “I tried twice before COVID, but felt I could not leave when the pandemic hit — when people here think of the SBA, they think of me. The staff and more importantly small businesses needed me. But this time, it’s for real. I am gone the end of the month. It’s hard, but it’s time.”
Goldberg proudly shows off a commendation for 30 years of government service he was recently granted. Why 30? The New Jersey native began his service to the country as an enlisted man, serving in Vietnam in 1970. He was a combat correspondent in the 20th Combat Engineer Brigade.
“I enlisted after graduating from Georgetown with a degree from the School of Foreign Service,” says Goldberg. “I felt that if you are going to have an opinion about the war, for or against, you should know what it is about. … My job as a writer was to make heroes out of everybody. It was the best job in Vietnam.”
Goldberg’s interest in small businesses goes back much further than his years in Vietnam or Georgetown. He grew up in New Jersey, just outsider of Manhattan, with a father who owned an automotive upholstery business.
“I saw what it was like to be a business owner, to work every day and night, to only take a vacation every few years. I worked for my dad, too, without pay, sweeping floors and more. An organization like the SBA would have helped my dad’s business grow.”
Following his time in Vietnam, Goldberg earned his MBA and worked for many years in banking, eventually ending up in Cleveland working for Central National Bank in 1982. In 1994, he saw the regional SBA was looking for new director and decided to make a leap.
“I thought the SBA would be a perfect fit,” says Goldberg. “I would be able to use my banking background to help small business like my father.”
Over the last three decades, many of the ways of working have changed at the SBA as technology has evolved, but “the mission is still the same,” says Goldberg: “To help small businesses grow and create jobs and wealth through our programs.”
Goldberg is proud of many of the regional and national programs he instituted over the years, such as the “Cut the Red Tape” program to make loan applications more efficient, and programs in Youngstown and Cuyahoga County that created public-private loan-grant initiatives so that businesses who did not have equity could attract landers and leverage funds to last longer. He also initiated programs with USDA to assist rural communities.
Plaques and honors around his office attest to Goldberg’s legacy and impact. Pictures with politicians such as President Clinton mix with family shots of Goldberg vacationing with his children and grandchildren — something he plans to do more of very soon.
Despite all of his honors, though, Goldberg is most proud of making a difference.
“I will really miss the SBA,” he says. “I have bene blessed in my life, and have had one of the best jobs in the federal government, helping the small business community. You can really see your efforts and make an impact at the SBA.”
Cleveland | U.S. Small Business Administration (sba.gov)
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