Man Meets Mission

Man Meets Mission
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Man Meets Mission

Peter Gibbs Makes a Difference for  U.S. SBA Office of Surety Guarantees.

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WHEN HE STARTED work in 2005 as Deputy Director for  the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Surety  Guarantees, Peter Gibbs remembers that one particular  office in his Washington, DC, workplace was perpetually  cluttered with unprocessed claims applications. Gibbs  decided to do something about it. 

“I used to walk by this woman’s office every day,” Gibbs  recalled. “I said, ‘There are a lot of piles in your office. You  and I are going to tackle a couple piles a day. We are going  to figure it out.’” 

And figure it out he did. Those piles of Surety Bond  Guarantee Program claims waiting for attention were  shrunk down to size. Gibbs was appointed Director of the  office in 2016, and by then claim payments went out within  30 days of submission, down from nine months, Gibbs said.  

With his retirement from the federal government this  past summer, fellow government officials and surety bond  

industry professionals have lined up to pay tribute to an  effective manager of a key industry partner:  “Peter Gibbs is a visionary and leader with excep tional talents. During his time at the U.S. Small Business  Administration, he led the Surety Bond Guarantee Program  into becoming a trusted partner of the surety industry.  Peter’s sense of responsibility to the public and the small  business community exemplifies why we are proud to be  called public servants.” said Jermaine Perry, who took over  from Gibbs as OSG’s Acting Director. 

Another OSG official, Program Analyst Kevin Valdes,  explained how Gibbs’ influence led the program’s opera tions to new heights: 

“After the primary mission to support small business,  Peter’s leadership focused the Surety Bond Guarantee  Program on creating a desirable platform for the surety  industry,” Valdes said. “Under his direction, program limits  were raised, turnaround was decreased, and the pro gram became fully electronic. His efforts turned the SBG  Program into a bonding tool that fits within the workflow  of its surety industry users and better meets the diverse  needs of small business.” 

NASBP surety bond producers praised Gibbs for his  energetic supervision of the office:  

“We have been utilizing the SBA Surety Bond Guarantee  Program for over two decades. The program provides  a great path to success for many small businesses. We  have found this program to be a great product to offer our  clients,” said Eric Lowey, First Vice President, Alliant. “We  have had countless clients obtain bonding through the  program and then graduate and go on to great success.  Peter has been a great ambassador for the program. As an  example, the video conference he put together last year  was very well done with a list of speakers that were top  shelf. It was fantastic to have a man of this caliber head  up this great program.”  

The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1970 estab lished the Surety Bond Guarantee Program. Its website  says that, in its first year of operations, it guaranteed  seven final bonds with a contract value of approximately  $315,000. In fiscal year 2019, it supported approximately  3,300 final contracts, totaling nearly $1.8 billion. 

Gibbs pointed to a problem with the program when he  started. It was not seen as customer friendly. Not only  were claims processed slowly, but also it was hard to get  staff on the phone, and different parts of the organiza 

tion might give different answers to the same question.  Gibbs wanted everyone on the same page and focused  on customers. 

“For me, customer service was extremely important,”  he said. “You had to return calls to people because in  this industry people are trying to get a bond written in  a day so you can’t take two, three days to respond to  people. Managers were supposed to call me if (staff) didn’t  respond in 24 hours.” 

Among Gibbs’ accomplishments during his tenure were  increasing surety company partnerships from 23 to 42;  expanding the Quick Bonds program; developing paper less application with approval time under two days; and  reducing program fees for small business and sureties. 

Surety bond producers took notice as a key industry  partner grew ever more flexible and developed a culture  of listening to stakeholders.  

“He’s always made himself available to agents who are  approved to do business with the SBA,” said Devin Moore,  President and CEO of Moore Surety Bonds Agency in  

Indianapolis. “If I ever had a question and I couldn’t reach  someone at the Denver office, I would call Washington;  and he would pick up or at least to get back to me right  away if I had a question about the surety bond program.” 

Longtime Surety Bond Guarantee Program client Michael  Williams, CEO of CCI Surety, Inc. based in Golden Valley,  Minnesota, called Gibbs “one of the most pro-active direc tors that had ever been at SBA.” 

Gibbs made a point of involving bond producers in  program innovations. 

“He attended meetings, he would reach out to NASBP, he  would reach out to agents, he would fly around the country,  he would call people, he would ask people, ‘What do you  think if we do this,’” Williams said. “Overwhelmingly, he  listened to agents and contractors and then would make  the appropriate changes to the program.” 

Williams, who has been working with the OSG since  1989, said the office had a reputation for being slow to  pay claims and requiring lots of red tape. Under Gibbs,  application requirements for 13 forms have been stream 

lined to four; and the program limits have been raised from  $1.25 million in 1989 to $6.5 million today ($10 million if  a federal project). 

After college, where he earned a B.S. in accounting from  Central State University and a masters of entrepreneur ship from Western Carolina University, Gibbs worked for  a Manhattan construction company. Gibbs, who is black,  said he encountered discrimination during his stint in the  private sector. 

“I found out that one of my colleagues who was doing  less work than I was getting paid more than I was. I wanted  to go into an environment where people were being paid  equally for their job,” Gibbs said.  

So he took a job in 1991 as examiner in SBA’s Investment  Division Office of Examinations, New Markets Venture  Capital, and the Rural Business Investment Program. Gibbs  took a break from the SBA during 2006-2010 when he was  called up for active service in the U.S. Army, doing logistics  in the Pentagon, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. In 2011  he retired as a lieutenant colonel.  

Upon retirement this summer from the federal government, Gibbs started up his own small business, Foundation  Surety

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