GUEST VIEW: Central Plains Road Tour starts May 20

The nation’s booming economy is buoyed by small business innovators who are looking to turn their big idea into the next American success story. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is coordinating a road tour to ensure these innovators are aware of the resources to help them reach that goal.
Each year, federal agencies award over $3 billion in seed funds to over 5,000 small high-tech research and development firms through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program coordinated by SBA.
Elizabeth Valenti, president of WorldWinds, Inc. is a recipient of one of those awards.
Armed with an engineering background, Valenti received funding through the SBIR Program to develop technology that has equipped NASA and FEMA with high quality remotely sensed weather data to help commercial aircraft better navigate during inclement weather.
When Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico, WorldWinds technology helped a commercial aircraft navigate in category 5 hurricane winds, carrying 173 passengers to safety.
During Hurricane Katrina, Valenti narrowed the focus of her firm, which has offices in Louisiana and Mississippi. Valenti’s company worked with impacted families in St. Bernard Parish who were dealing with rejected flood insurance claims. Insurance companies were reporting that their damage was not caused by flood water. Using weather mapping and storm surge technology, Valenti offered these families free maps that identified high water levels. The family members were able to use the maps to settle their claims.
The word soon got out about Valenti’s technology and everyone began to call on WorldWinds for assistance, including the local police, who still regularly rely on WorldWinds’ model to pinpoint weather and storm patterns. Valenti said she owes a large part of her success to the SBIR funding.
This is the kind of success that is on the Trump Administration’s radar. In his first 100 days, the president signed two executive orders supporting women in business: the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, which encourages entrepreneurial programs that recruit and support women, and the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers and Innovators and Explorers Act, which directs NASA to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to pursue careers in aerospace.
The SBA is launching a 16-stop road tour to give innovators face-to-face opportunities to speak to federal agency program managers and decision makers, who will conduct one-on-one meetings with attendees, take part in targeted panels, discuss technology areas, and share insights into how the agencies make funding decisions.
Eleven federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health are participating in the tour. Together they represent America’s largest seed fund, financing a wide spectrum of innovative ideas.
Funding takes the form of contracts or grants and the awardee projects must have the potential for commercialization while meeting specific U.S. Government R&D requirements.
The National SBIR Central Plains Tour will run from May 20-24, with stops in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Kansas City, Kansas; Des Moines, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Fargo, North Dakota.
For more information on the SBIR Road Tour, including a schedule of stops and participating agencies should visit: It’s time to take your idea to the next level to help build a strong national economy, increase global competitiveness and contribute to the creation of good paying jobs.
Justin Crossie is the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Central Region, serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.