Local business navigates pandemic ups and downs, thanks to SBA

From the left: Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, SBA Region 6 Administrator Ted James, Paragon Furniture owner Ricky Kassanoff, SBA Public Information Officer Ahmad Goree, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. (Photo courtesy SBA)

As a manufacturer of chairs, tables, desks and an array of other school furniture, the pandemic shutdown could have put Paragon Furniture’s business in jeopardy.

With classrooms shuttered and kids learning at home, there wasn’t much need for new classroom and library furniture.

But there were earlier orders to fill and with its designation as an essential business and help from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Arlington business was able to “keep things normal,” said CEO and co-owner Ricky Kassanoff.

Kassanoff and co-owner Mark Hubbard acquired the company in 2004 and turned it into a $20 million enterprise with international reach and innovative products suited to the educational innovation of the 21st Century.

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Sales are returning to sturdy footing thanks to in part to help from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and other financial assistance offered by the SBA.

“The SBA has a done a great job and has given us lines of credit we can use to work through the peaks and valleys we face,” Kassanoff said.

Kassanoff was able to demonstrate the impact SBA assistance had on his business on Feb. 11 when he led SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman on a tour of the furniture plant, accompanied by Arlington Mayor Jim Ross.

Guzman’s stop at the plant was part of her first official visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a member of the Biden Administration Cabinet. Since last May, she has visited 23 states and U.S. territories to meet with small business owners and highlight the economic impact of the SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program, the American Rescue Plan and other relief programs.

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During stops in Dallas County, she met with U.S. Representatives Colin Allred and Beth Van Duyne.

During her tour of the Paragon plant, Guzman said she was pleased to see how the SBA’s support has benefited local small businesses.

“It’s been a pleasure to visit and see how small businesses have leveraged the SBA’s lending products for COVID relief,” Guzman said.

The SBA has invested $34 billion in COVID relief in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, “demonstrating the strength of these communities” and their resilience.

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“It’s good to see made-in-America products being produced here,” Guzman said.

Ross said that Arlington is often perceived as a home of big business due to the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Six Flags but “small business is really our backbone.”

“Our small businesses could not have survived without the help of the SBA,” Ross said.

In Tarrant County, 2,920 businesses received a combined $23,309,136 in funding as part of the Small Business Covid-19 Relief Program. Of those, 1,055 Arlington small businesses received a combined $8,171,800 in relief funding, according to the city of Arlington.