ST. GEORGE – The Southern Utah Small Business Development Center bade farewell to its director, Lennart Erickson, on Wednesday morning.
Erickson consulted over 1,400 clients during his 13-year tenure, which had a $ 44 million impact on the southern Utah economy.
Dixie Technical College President Kelle Stephens spoke a few words about Erickson to the audience who gathered for Wednesday morning’s list of events, which included two panels, a keynote speaker, a ribbon cutting to celebrate the launch of the new Dixie Business Alliance and recognition of Erickson’s departure.
“I had an office near Len’s,” Stephens says. “I had the opportunity to hear a lot of commercial arguments. Most of them thought they had big ideas. It was Len who must have said, ‘No, that will never work.’ … We all need someone like that, don’t we?
Erickson made the crowd laugh when he replied, “Not everyone would agree with you.”
Erickson said he was responsible for feasibility reports, which considered a company’s strengths and weaknesses when their owners applied for loans. While some business owners took his advice to heart, others were more stubborn, he said, adding that sadly many of those companies didn’t.
Among them was a group looking to start a tire recycling business.
“I saw that they weren’t going to be able to have enough tires and that there was not much they could do with the tires they received,” Erickson said. “They weren’t going to have enough clients or customers, even though they had already invested in the business.”
In addition to the unsuccessful businesses, Erickson has helped over 240 other businesses get started, creating nearly 2,000 jobs. A statistics sheet distributed Wednesday said Erickson had spent more than 15,000 hours working with business owners.
Following Stephens’ comments, Jeff Mather, the new director of the Small Business Development Center, took the stage. Almost as soon as he started to speak, Mather held back tears.
“Len worked for one of the worst bosses in history: the White Shark of Wall Street,” Mather said, referring to Thomas Mellon Evans, the financier who has been called one of the first corporate raiders. . Lobbying for shareholder rights, Evans used controversial tactics to gain control of more than eighty American corporations, ushering in a new era for corporations in 1950s America.
Mather went on to say that Erickson told him about a friend’s funeral which was packed with mourners.
“Len said he didn’t think he could get 10 people to come to his house,” Mather said. Then, drawing his attention to Erickson, he added, “Well, it’s not your funeral, but look how many people are here today.”
As Erickson moves from St. George to Salt Lake City, he said he will continue to work for the Small Business Development Center. As his 76th birthday approached, he recalled his father’s approaching retirement.
“My father was a lawyer in Denver,” he told St. George News. “He didn’t stop working until he was 80 years old. Work has reinvigorated him, and so am I.
Still, Erickson has said he intends to retire in the next few years. Until then, he will be spending his billable hours helping Salt Lake City clients get their businesses off the ground in a competitive economy.
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