Vine Grove Man Kentucky’s Small Business Owner of the Year | local news

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A Vine Grove man was named the 2022 Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year.

Alejandro “Alex” Ramirez, founder and owner of Universal Spartan LLC, will be honored, according to a press release from the Small Business Association.

After serving in the US Army for 22 years, Ramirez enrolled in the SBA Boots to Business entrepreneurship education and training program at Fort Knox before retiring from the military. He then started his new business in Vine Grove.

“I’m thrilled to recognize our National Small Business Week winners from across the country who have worked hard to build their businesses, create jobs and make historic recovery,” SBA Administrator Guzman said in the release. “Entrepreneurs are innovators and creators who deliver the products and services we depend on and make our neighborhoods, cities and communities more vibrant places to live and work. They are doing everything they can to achieve their American dream of owning their own company and advancing America’s economy and global competitiveness.”

As the company grew and evolved, Ramirez took advantage of the association’s other programs and services. He began working with Patricia Krausman, director of the Kentucky Small Business Development Center in Elizabethtown and the Veterans Business Outreach Center, both SBA resource partners, to refine his business plan, the release said.

With the help of Krausman and the Advisory Center, Ramirez discussed export opportunities and federal government contracting opportunities. Universal Spartan has been certified as a disabled, veteran-owned small business, allowing the company to more effectively compete for federal contracts.

Krausman also connected Ramirez to the Kentucky Procurement Technical Assistance Center, where advisors trained him on how to more effectively compete for federal government contracts. According to the press release, this opened the door for the first of several export grants from the SBA State Trade Expansion Program.

Ramirez was then introduced to experts from the US Export Assistance Center and the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Since then, Universal has signed Spartan deals in multiple countries around the globe, the press release said.

In 2018, Ramirez was awarded the SBA Kentucky Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year. The following year, Ramirez received the Hispanic Veteran’s Business Enterprise of the Year Award from the National Veteran-Owned Business Association and was inducted into the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame in 2021. During the same period, Ramirez also participated in the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative, an intensive executive series designed to accelerate the growth of high-potential small businesses in America’s underserved cities.

According to the press release, when COVID-19 struck, Universal Spartan received two forgivable loans from the SBA Paycheck Protection Program and a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and an EIDL advance grant to help the company survive. Ramirez then worked with the SBA to obtain certification for the 8(a) Business Development Program to increase contract opportunities.

As the pandemic began to subside, Ramirez formed a joint venture with a recently graduated 8(a) firm in western Kentucky, also a small business owned by service disable veterans. They recently landed a major federal contract, the press release said.

“The SBA, SBDC and other small business resources have boosted my business in many ways. I know they will continue to support Universal Spartan in the future,” Ramirez said in the release.

Today the company has 12 contractors and has transformed into a defense oriented company offering tactical, IT, medical and electrical equipment and supplies. Ramirez also supports numerous community and charitable organizations, including youth sports and veterans services. He also founded the Kentucky Veteran Business Alliance in 2017 to provide education and empowerment to all veterans with the resources and support to go beyond the military. He continues to support the program with his time and experience, the statement said.

“Our 2022 honorees represent the vibrancy and resilience of our nation’s 32.5 million small businesses,” Guzman said in the press release. “I look forward to celebrating these small business giants and the positive impact they have had on life and livelihoods in communities across America.”

National Small Business Week takes place May 1-7. It celebrates small businesses, provides critical resources, and recognizes SBA partners for their support in providing startup and small business owner advisory and consulting, skills development, disaster preparedness and recovery, and access to capital, government contracts, and market opportunities to start, grow, and resilient businesses build up.

The Kentucky SBDC and SBA will attend the Kentucky Celebrates Small Business Ceremony recognizing the winners of the 2022 SBDC Pacesetter and SBA Awards on May 4th at the State Capitol in Frankfurt, Germany.

For information, email Michael Ashcraft at [email protected]

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