Taking the initiative

Matt Varilek appointed President of community and development organisation The Initiative Foundation.

One of the first cohort of Gates Cambridge Scholars has been appointed president and chief executive officer of a leading US community and economic development organisation.

Matt Varilek, former chief operating officer of the US Small Business Administration in Washington, DC, will officially take up his new post at the The Initiative Foundation on 3rd January.

The Foundation provides loans and financing to help businesses in Central Minnesota create jobs and invests in community organisations that build the local economy. It has dispersed more than $81 million in targeted grants and loans since it was set up 30 years ago. 

“The Initiative Foundation's outstanding work related to economic development, community development and philanthropy is an ideal match with my own professional background and rural upbringing,” said Matt [2001], who did a master's in Environment and Development at the University of Cambridge. “As someone who has personally experienced the transformative impact of philanthropy, I am thrilled to return to Greater Minnesota to join a distinguished organisation like the Initiative Foundation, which makes such an incredible impact in the communities it serves.”

As chief operating officer of the US Small Business Administration, Varilek oversaw agency-wide operations in support of the SBA's small-business lending, venture capital and private equity work as well as its entrepreneurial training, government contracting and disaster recovery efforts.

Prior to his move to Washington DC, Varilek served as SBA regional administrator for the most rural of the agency's regions, guiding delivery of small business programs and services in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Montana.

Before joining the SBA, Matt stood for Congress in South Dakota. He also worked as Economic Development Director for US senator Tim Johnson and was Legislative Assistant for Economic Development to Senator Tom Daschle.

Matt has also worked in the private sector, analysing energy and environmental commodity market dynamics as director of policy and research for Natsource LLC, a commodities brokerage with offices in London, New York City and Washington, DC.