Barreto, Hector V., Jr.

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Barreto, Hector V., Jr.

U.S. Small Business Administration


In July 2001, Hector Barreto Jr. was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 21st Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington, D.C. His organization has 2,800 employees, 70 district offices nationwide, a 2001 budget of $900 million, and a loan portfolio of $45 billion. In 2001 there were an estimated 25 million small businesses in the United States. At the time of Barreto's appointment, he was just 39 years old.

Personal Life

Barreto grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. His father, Hector Sr., had come to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1958 and started out by picking potatoes for 50 cents an hour. Barreto adored his father, and he credits his family upbringing with the business and personal success he now enjoys.

As a nine–year–old boy, Barreto waited on tables in his father's Independence, Missouri, restaurant, "Mexico Lindo," which became a big success. His family eventually opened up two other restaurants in Kansas City, and lived out what they always spoke of, "the American Dream." Barreto's father became a well–known Kansas City businessman, president of Sol International, Inc., and co–founder of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 1979. In 1986 the senior Barreto was a presidential appointee to the delegation of the National White House Conference on Small Business.

Barreto later worked in some of his father's other businesses, including an import–export company and a construction company. On one such job, Barreto actually laid marble tile that was imported from Mexico to use in construction. The laborious work proved a factor in shaping his desire to work with his mind, not his physical strength. He decided to pursue a career in management.

Barreta attended Kansas City's Rockhurst University and graduated with a degree in business administration and management and in Spanish. His close friends described him as "polished and driven" for a 2001 article in Hispanic magazine. Barreto told the magazine's interviewers that, while he never dreamed he would end up as the head of the SBA, he always had "ganas" to do something big. Translated loosely, ganas means "an unrelenting desire to accomplish a great goal." Barreto is quoted in the magazine's article as stating, "This isn't just a job for me. It's something I consider a higher purpose."

Barreto often refers to the influence his parents have had upon his own life and purpose. According to him, their ganas to achieve the "American Dream" affected him so much that he made particular mention of it during the Senate confirmation hearings. Barreto is quoted in the Hispanic magazine article as having said, "My father is a hero to me, he is my role model. He has been a trailblazer all his life, always a visionary leader. This is an immigrant who came to the United States with no money or contacts and he really built a life. To see in one generation his son obtain such a position was a culmination of a dream for him."

Barreto had already amassed an impressive portfolio of awards and honors even before his presidential appointment. For his previous work in promoting diversity and improving race relations, he was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor by the Multicultural Institute of Leadership. He also has received recognition from the U.S. Congress, the California State Senate and Assembly, and the County of Los Angeles for his contributions to the business community and professional relations. In 1999 Hispanic magazine named him one of America's "100 Most Influential Hispanics."

Barreto and his father share a love for politics and are both active members of the Republican Party. Barreto Jr. served as co–chairman of the Bush–Cheney campaign in California during the 2000 campaign. He is married to Robin and has two daughters, Avrial and Tahlia.

Career Details

Shortly after graduation from college in 1982, Barreto and a friend left Kansas City and went to work together as merchandisers for the Miller Brewing Company. Their jobs took Barreto to Texas as an area manager, and his friend to Atlanta. Four years later, in 1986, Barreto moved to Southern California to start his own company, Barreto Insurance and Financial Services, in Los Angeles. His clear intention was to serve the undertapped market in the region's large Hispanic communities. By appealing to this niche population while forming strategic alliances in the local business community, Barreto was able to increase his revenues from approximately $65,000 in the first year to $3 million in 2000. Primarily an employee benefits firm, the company has ten employees and continues to serve local interests. Barreto has said that he wants the business to continue growing so that he can pass it on to his children one day. He also started a securities broker–dealer firm, Telacu/Barreto Financial Services, that specialized in retirement planning.

Appointed in 1997 to head the Latin Business Association (LBA) in Los Angeles, Barreto was credited with doubling revenues and membership during his two–year appointment that ended in 1999. He also created the Latino Business Expo, an event that focuses on procurement opportunities, corporate exhibitions, and business education. During his tenure with LBA, Barreto founded the Latin Business Association Institute (LBAI), an extension of LBA that provides technical assistance, education, and business development opportunities for its members.

Chronology: Hector V. Barreto, Jr.

1961: Born in Kansas City.

1982: Earned B.S.B.A. at Rockhurst University.

1982: Became Area Manager for the Miller Brewery Inc.

1986: Launched Barreto Insurance and Financial Services in Los Angeles.

1997: Named chairman of the Latin Business Association.

1999: Named as one of 100 Most Influential Hispanics in Hispanic magazine.

2000: Served as vice chairman of Bush Campaign in California.

2000: Named vice chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

2001: Appointed to head the SBA.

In 2000 Barreto was appointed vice chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, co–founded by his father. The organization represents approximately 1.5 million Latino businesses in the United States and is the largest Latino business organization in the country. The appointment to vice chair gave Barreto the visibility he needed in Washington. President Bush nominated Barreto to the SBA position in February 2001, but his confirmation hearing was delayed over the summer by (among other things) the shift in power within the Senate from Republican to Democrat. Once the hearings began, he sailed through the process (the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship voted an uncontested 19–0 for his confirmation)—having already been endorsed by 149 groups and business leaders. Several senators spoke in favor of his candidacy as well, praising his lengthy experience as an entrepreneur and his involvement in business groups that extended opportunities to minority business owners. He is the first administrator from the West Coast.

While there was some concern among those in Washington that his lack of experience working in a federal bureaucracy might inhibit his ability to make an impact, Barreto's longtime friend Manuel Rosales told Hispanic magazine interviewers that skeptics would be pleasantly surprised with Barreto's abilities. "It's been a long time since the SBA has had a head who was actually a small businessman," Rosales stated. "He understands the complexities of running a small business on a shoestring." Another interviewee in the same article, Richard Amador, president and chief executive of CHARO Community Development Corporation (which also serves small businesses in Los Angeles) described Barreto as "having the qualities of a leader, but above all of that, he's buena gente (good people)." He stated that Barreto possessed "the human spirit" that was often found lacking in leaders and executives.

Moreover, the financial services business that he runs with his wife has led to an expanding number of small business enterprises among minorities, especially women of color. Barreto hopes to carry that initiative and experience into the SBA's list of priorities. SBA's charter stipulates that it will ensure small businesses a "fair proportion" of government contracts and sales of surplus property. And within that "fair proportion" that is slated for small businesses, Barreto intends to make sure that there is also a "fair proportion" of minority–run small businesses represented as well.

In his new $133,700 position, Barreto will oversee a portfolio of direct and guaranteed business loans and disaster loans worth more than $45 billion. He also will direct financial and business development plans to the nation's entrepreneurs. According to the SBA's organizational chart found on its Web site, Barreto has an executive deputy–administrator under him to help in overseeing the massive agency. Associate deputy–administrators head up the areas of Capital Access, Entrepreneurial Development, Government Contracting and Business Development, and general Management & Administration. Reporting directly (through his deputy administrator) are the Offices of Field Operations, General Counsel, Disaster Assistance, Hearings and Appeals, Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Veterans Business Development, EEO and Civil Rights Compliance, and the Chief Financial Officer.

Prior to Barreto's appointment, the SBA had taken some heat from Capitol Hill for not better informing fledgling small businesses of the services available—from start–up loans to technical assistance. Critics of the SBA, created in 1953 to "aid, counsel, assist and protect. . . the interests of small business concerns," complain that the agency helps only about one percent of its target market each year—or about 250,000 businesses. But Barreto is committed to making the SBA more user–friendly (with such things as extended office hours and upgrades to its Web site) and plans to reach out to business owners across the country through advocacy and entrepreneurial development. In fact, outreach effort is one of the top priorities Barreto identified for SBA, and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he stated that he planned to "have a top–down review of the agency and get a handle on the programs that are working well." For those that were not, he planned to demand a full accounting.

Barreto stated in a Los Angeles Times article that he saw untapped potential in the SBA's venture capital program, in which SBA–guaranteed funds supplement the money already committed by private venture capital firms to create privately owned and managed investment firms. As his friend from his Miller Brewing Company days told Kevin Murphy in the Kansas City Star, "He has a passion for business, a passion for bringing ideas and people together."

Social and Economic Impact

Barreto believes he brings a fresh perspective to Washington. As he stated in Hispanic magazine, "I think anytime a new leader comes into a position like this, they will bring their enthusiasm and excitement and vision for the future. I think that's positive." He went on to add, "I don't feel pressure that I'm coming from California and am new to the agency. We've got a lot of talented people in this agency, people with lots of experience who truly care about small business. You are as strong as your people and we've got a lot of good people. We are going to be able to do a lot of things to empower small business in the future."

Barreto was interviewed by Jan Norman of the Orange County Register in August 2001 about his plans for the SBA. When asked what he brought with him to the SBA leadership, he responded, "First of all, relatability. I've had to make a payroll. I've had to raise money to start a business. I've had to market my business, adjust to changes in the marketplace, deal with employees. I learned to listen to customers. We want the SBA to be customer–friendly. If we listen, they will tell us what we need to do."

Sources of Information

Contact at: U.S. Small Business Administration
Washington, DC


Brown, Ann. "Friend or Foe?" Black Enterprise, November 2001.

Brunning, S. "In at SBA." Money, 26 July 2001. Available at

Hernandez, Greg. "Con Ganas!" Hispanic, September 2001.

Murphy, Kevin. "U.S. Small Business Administrator Learned from Parents' Persistence." The Kansas City Star, 1 August 2001.

Norman, Jan. "New Chief of U.S. Small Business Administration Plans Changes for Agency." The Orange County Register, 7 August 2001.

Robinson–Jacobs, Karen. "SBA Nominee Has High Hopes, Uncertain Budget." The Los Angeles Times, 23 July 2001.

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Barreto, Hector V., Jr.

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