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WASHINGTON – Nick Owens, former NCUA external affairs director and special assistant to Chairman JoAnn Johnson, has found a new home. Owens has been appointed national ombudsman for the U.S. Small Business Administration by SBA Administrator Hector Barreto, the agency said. Owens’ official start date was March 27. He succeeds Michael Barrera, who left SBA in June 2005 to become president/CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In his role as SBA’s fifth national ombudsman, Owens will lead the national effort on behalf of the country’s small businesses to ensure fairness in the enforcement of federal regulations, the agency said. The national ombudsman is empowered to receive, substantiate and report to Congress complaints and comments from small business owners about regulatory enforcement actions taken against small businesses by federal agencies. “Nicholas Owens brings to the National Ombudsman’s office a solid background in economic policy, and a first-hand knowledge of the regulatory challenges faced by business owners,” Barreto said. “The office of the National Ombudsman is a good match for his talents, and there’s no doubt that he will contribute greatly to improved communications and diminished disputes between small business and federal regulatory agencies.” The National Ombudsman’s office works closely with more than 35 federal regulatory agencies to resolve complaints about excessive enforcement of federal regulations during hearings held in cities nationwide. Established in 1996 with the passage of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, it also works with 10 regional fairness boards whose membership is drawn from 50 small business owners from across the country. Owens left NCUA last month after five years of service to the regulator. While there, he directed the agency’s public affairs staff, served as a senior advisor on press, congressional and policy issues, and was a liaison to the White House on policy and presidential personnel matters. Owens also coordinated the NCUA’s “Access Across America” economic empowerment initiative. In fiscal year 2004, the last year a report to Congress was issued, the Office of the National Ombudsman received 445 comments and participation from small businesses and trade associations representing more than half a million members. Federal agencies reported to the SBA office nearly $2 billion in civil penalty abatements, reductions, or waivers. [email protected]

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