The Washington Post

Federal Faces: Harry Haskins

Harry Haskins

Deputy associate administrator for investment, Small Business Administration (SBA)

Best known for: As the U.S. economy was sinking into recession in 2008, an SBA program designed to provide investment capital to private equity firms was stagnant and ill-prepared to help stimulate economic growth. Haskins stepped into the breach, helping revitalize the faltering Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program that has put billions of dollars in the hands of entrepreneurs and led to the creation of thousands of jobs since 2009. The SBIC program licenses privately owned and managed investment companies that use their own capital, plus funds borrowed from lending institutions with an SBA guarantee to invest in qualifying small businesses. Haskins led his team to institute a series of reforms, including streamlining the licensing funding processes for private investment firms. Haskins and his staff cut average processing times from just under 15 months in 2009 to about five months in 2012. They committed $1.9 billion in funds to the private equity firms during 2012 alone compared with $788 million in 2009. These investments led to the creation or retention of an estimated 63,000 jobs in 2012 compared with about 28,000 three years earlier. Colleagues said Haskins and his team maintained the financial integrity of the program while meeting the needs of the market at a critical time.

Government work: Haskins has 38 years of federal service, holding a variety of financial positions at the U.S. Maritime Administration and later at the SBA. Haskins is set to retire this summer.

Harry Haskins. (Courtesy of Sam Kittner)

Motivation for service: Haskins belonged to the generation motivated by the idealism of the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the SBA, this has translated into helping small businesses grow, create jobs and spur economic growth.

Biggest challenge: Getting the SBIC program running on all cylinders required overcoming inertia, risk aversion and its poor reputation with private investment firms.

Quote: “We have put a lot more money in the hands of small businesses to grow and expand. In light of the current economic conditions, the tangible connection between our efforts and the growth of small businesses is something that makes us all very proud. We know we’re having an impact and doing it efficiently.”

— From the Partnership for Public Service

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