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SBA head Linda McMahon brings small business tour to region

The Made in America store in Elma has attracted lots of visitors and international media attention over the years, for its policy of selling exclusively 100 percent American-made products, right down to the packaging.

On Friday, U.S. Small Business Administration administrator Linda McMahon toured the store with its founder and owner, Mark Andol. She praised his commitment to his vision and to his employees.

"I know from growing a business from the ground up, that with the folks that are here and your other stores, they become part of your extended family, and you care about them deeply every day," she said. McMahon cited health care and regulatory costs as priorities for small businesses.

As head of the SBA, McMahon focuses on the interests of small businesses. Its lending programs help companies that might otherwise have trouble obtaining financing to start up or expand.

McMahon gained fame as the co-founder and former CEO of what today is known as World Wrestling Entertainment. President Trump appointed McMahon as SBA administrator last year.

"When he asked me to do this job when he was president-elect, he said, 'I want someone who's been there, who's done that, who's built a business, who's experienced the ups and the downs,'" she said.

McMahon has since embarked on an "SBA Ignite" tour, visiting SBA districts around the country to meet agency employees and talk to small business owners like Andol about their concerns. On Saturday, McMahon is scheduled to speak at "Straight Talk," an annual event the SBA's Buffalo district office hosts to support small businesses.

McMahon said trips like these are educational for her. "I take those messages back to the president. You might even hear him speak about some of them from time to time."

Andol opened his Made in America store off the Aurora Expressway in 2010, with a modest inventory of about 50 products. The store has kept on growing and now operates multiple satellite locations. About 700 tour buses have visited the Elma store, a destination for its unique American-only inventory.

Andol led McMahon on a comprehensive tour of the store, which stocks everything from clothing to tools to groceries. McMahon was eager to buy a package of Claeys Fudge she spotted in one display.

Andol praised the companies that shared his passion for manufacturing their products in the United States and supply his stores. "These people believe in what we're doing," he said. "It's a movement."

McMahon also visited Andol's other business, General Welding and Fabricating, across the street.

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