Since taking office two years ago as the New England regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jeffrey Butland has watched the economy turn on a dime, businesses fold and other businesses start up, and has helped change the face of the small-business economy in the six New England states.

During that same time period, Butland has put 75,000 miles on his car while witnessing firsthand the success stories he helped make happen.

“We have great people who are working for the SBA and we are making a great difference for a lot of people,” says Butland.

A typical day for the Region 1 administrator begins when he rises at 4:45 a.m. in Maine, where he lives with his wife, Nancy, and his four children, who range in age from 5 to 19.

Upon arriving at the Thomas P. O’Neill Building at 10 Causeway St. in Boston around 8 a.m., Butland says his workday officially starts in Room 812 with “a lot of correspondence that needs to be taken care of in the region and in [Washington] D.C. Then there is the outreach to the media and marketing efforts, and I like to get out and visit as many success stories as possible.”


But this lifestyle is not unusual for Butland, who served 10 years in the Maine Legislature from 1988 to 1998. Butland was a member of the House of Representatives from 1988-1992 and a state senator from 1992-1998, including a stint as president of the Senate during 1995-1996.

As Senate president, Butland devoted his efforts to improving the Maine economy through small-business development. He assumed a strong leadership role in the areas of tax relief, regulatory reform and the widening of the Maine Turnpike.

Having earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 1973, Butland served on active duty in the U.S. Marines for four years. He retired from military service in 1994 with the rank of major, after serving 21 years on active and reserve duty.

Butland was sworn in as the New England regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration on Jan. 7, 2002. He manages the SBA district offices in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont and has oversight of the SBA’s Financing, Marketing and Outreach efforts in the six-state region.

Managing the economic position of six states has proven educational, and Butland says he continues to see major differences in the six states, in terms of SBA lending.

“In Vermont and Maine, you have the small community banks that are the backbone of the businesses, and it’s tough in Vermont and Maine because the amount of loans available is smaller,” said Butland. “In Massachusetts, banks like FleetBoston have made the conscience decision to not work with the SBA on administering loans – but Citizens went [in] the other direction and works with the SBA, and became one of the biggest SBA lenders in New England.”

Butland says all six New England states are complementary for small-business start-ups, but Massachusetts is more “high-tech, and that has cost the state because of the recent downturn in the economy.”

Within the structure of the SBA, Butland says he continuously faces challenges, mainly state budgets, noting that for as a large of an organization as the SBA is, Region 1 is only allowed $800 million in loans, so the money used must be spent wisely.

“Everything you spend money on has to be mission-critical,” said Butland.

Because he believes that small businesses are the economy’s backbone, Butland is devoted to the state’s entrepreneurs – and while he faces his own challenges in office, he says he tries to lessen the burden on small-business owners in any way possible.

“I realize the enormous challenges that small businesses face. They are the backbone for the economy and they are taken for granted,” said Butland. “But, they are all extremely optimistic and enjoy their small-business status. They’ve been able to weather the storm of a soft economy.”

Overall, Butland says the best thing about his job is creating employment opportunities for other people.

“Anything I can do, or the SBA can do, to make the lives of small-business owners easier, I will,” says Butland. “We’ve been around for so long because we can adapt to the changing world, and we have a big future ahead of us.”