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Photograph of Jeff Nicol

Rick Leibowitz, Regional Director, (541) 506-6120

Rick has over 9 years of business counseling experience, having worked for SBDCs in Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, NY and Oregon.  He earned his Bachelor's Degree from Rutgers University and has over 16 years of business ownership experience.  He started his first business, a mobile disc jockey service at the age of 17.  He then started and operated 4 bagel bakeries and a restaurant in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Alaska.  All are currently operating profitably under transitioned ownership.  In addition to owning his own businesses, Rick also has experience working as Director of Operations/CFO for privately owned organizations in the food manufacturing, hospitality and professional services industries.  

Rick specializes in helping clients develop meaningful business plans, supporting the development of operational standards and assisting with loan applications.  He enjoys teaching classes and helping clients achieve their personal goals for success on their terms.

Photograph of Israel Ayala - credit: Michelle Bose

Israel Ayala Guevara, Small Business Counseling Specialist, (541) 506-6044

Born in Mexico, Israel Ayala Guevara subsequently moved to California before moving to The Dalles in 1996. He has worked as a line cook, kitchen manager, silkscreen-printer and medical interpreter. He currently owns a couple of small businesses, in addition to working part time for the SBDC as a business counselor. Israel's relationship with the SBDC is deep. With the help of Mary Merrill, former SBDC Director, Israel applied for a MCEDD loan for a small business startup in 2009. Israel received the loan and at a young age began his first business. He has since returned to school and is in pursuit of his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and ultimately his MBA.

He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of startup financing, digital marketing and social media. His enthusiasm comes from his natural desire to help others. As a Rotary Youth Leadership Award recipient, he has represented The Dalles Rotary Club in many events for Rotary District 5100, including the yearly "End Polio Now" panhandling fundraiser. Other community involvement include volunteering at NWCPRD skateboarding events and coaching the yearly Jumpstart Basketball Summer Youth Camp.

Photograph of Amanda Bernal - credit: Michelle Bose

Amanda Bernal, Administrative Assistant SBDC / RD, (541) 506-6121

Amanda provides the Administrative Assistant function for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Resource Development Department, which includes the Columbia Gorge Community College Foundation. She has held this position since July 2012.

Having grown up in the Columbia River Gorge and worked in customer service for 20 years, Amanda brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the SBDC. In addition to helping SBDC clients get scheduled into appointments with the business counselors, Amanda also schedules users for the commercial kitchen business incubator and ensures the SBDC's various courses are properly set up in the College's course catalog.

She is currently attending Columbia Gorge Community College to obtain her Associate of Science Oregon Transfer Degree in Business.

Photograph of Mike DeMott - credit: Michelle Bose

Mike DeMott, Small Business Counseling Specialist, (541) 506-6044

Mike started his career in banking while attending the University of Montana in the fall of 1999. Upon graduation this career path took him to Bank of the West in Newport and then to The Dalles, Oregon where he held the position of VP/Branch Manager. He was responsible for the commercial lending side of the bank. It was through this work that he learned about the SBDC and their focus on helping small business owners start and grow their businesses.

Mike started working part-time for the SBDC at Columbia Gorge Community College while holding his position with Bank of the West. He has now been working for the SBDC for the past several years as a Small Business Adviser and course instructor. During his banking and SBDC career Mike has worked with hundreds of small businesses in all stages of growth.

Currently with the SBDC he is providing one-on-one business counseling, teaching workshops on various small business topics, and helping business owners achieve financing from both banks and non-bank lending sources. Mike is a QuickBooks Certified and Profit Mastery Certified Facilitator.

Photograph of Fritz Ellett - credit: Michelle Bose

Fritz Ellett, Small Business Counseling Specialist / Small Business Management Instructor, (541) 506-6121

Fritz Ellett was born in The Dalles and raised on a Christmas Tree Farm outside of town. He attended Oregon State University and received a Business degree in finance with a minor in Industrial Engineering in 1986. He moved to Seattle and worked for Boeing for a couple of years before branching off. He saw an opportunity and started a house painting business in Seattle in 1988.

In 1991, shortly after marrying, he and his wife, LeAnn, moved back to the gorge. Fritz continued the painting business and also went into a partnership with his father on the Christmas Tree Farm. He and LeAnn have two daughters and continue the farm operation.

He has a long experience running businesses, managing employees, and dealing with the problems and opportunities small businesses face. Fritz has worked with the SBDC since 2011 and feels the SBDC is an outstanding resource and looks forward to helping new and existing businesses further their goals. Fritz is QuickBooks Certified and a Profit Mastery Certified Facilitator.