• 45°

Small Business Administration heads seminar in Albemarle

A group of aspiring entrepreneurs got a firsthand peek at what the U.S. Small Business Administration can do for rural clients.
Several stakeholders representing federal, state and private programs, spearheaded by the SBA, participated in a seminar aimed at assisting those interested in launching a new business. Monday’s program, dubbed SBA Day and held at the Stanly Community College Small Business Center in downtown Albemarle, featured Ashley Bell, regional administrator for the SBA, as the keynote speaker.
Bell explained that the SBA is trying to ensure rural areas experience the same benefits, if not more, than those in metropolitan cities where there is better access to resources.
“Many of our mill towns are relics of what they used to be,” Bell said of cities like Albemarle that have relied on the creation of small businesses to spawn economic prosperity in the absence of former pillars of industry.
Instead of hindering businesses with too much bureaucracy and too many regulations, Bell said the federal government prefers to “get out of the way and out of your pocket.”
While rural communities are subject to more unique challenges than larger cities, there are programs aimed at leveling the playing field for small start-up businesses in rural towns.
“In some ways there are more opportunities,” Bell said.
The Historically Underutilized Business Program was created to promote equal opportunities for small, minority- and women-owned businesses. Companies interested in doing business with the state are encouraged to become HUB certified.
Of the more than $400 billion spent on small business investment, 23 percent goes into rural communities.
For the first time, this year more than $100 billion was earmarked for small businesses in rural America, Bell said.
“Let us help you compete for federal dollars,” he added. “You’re leaving money on the table by not trying.”
Services promoted at the seminar included:
• SBA Loan — There are a variety of loans, such as the 7(a) Loan (SBA’s largest financing program because it can be used for any type of business); caplines (lines of credit); SBA Express Loan; SBA Microlenders; and 504 Certified Development Company Loan Program;
• SBA Government Contracting — All Small Mentor-Protege Program, 8(a) Business Development Program, HUBZone, For Service-Disabled Veterans, and Women-Owned Small Business Cerrtification;
• Charlotte SCORE — an all-volunteer organization that is certified and prepared to mentor start-up or established small business in need of assistance;
• Small Business and Technology Development Center — a statewide business advisory service within the University of North Carolina System that provides management counseling and education services for entrepreneurs;
• U.S. Department of Agriculture — provides rural businesses funding options through partnerships with private-sector lenders; and
• North Carolina Rural Center — a private nonprofit connects entrepreneurs to coaching and capital.
Locally, the SBC provides services to assist entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. Over the last 12 months, the SBC has performed 350 hours of free one-on-one confidential business counseling, serving 117 clients. Since July 2017, it has offered 122 seminars, at no charge, with 1,238 attendees.
The SBC, at 143 N. Second St., assists start-up businesses overcome challenges. It helps entrepreneurs with business planning, pursuit of financial assistance, marketing and sales, and buying and selling a business.
“The Stanly Community College Small Business Center is uniquely positioned to assist current and prospective small business owners who desire to start or expand a business in Stanly County,” said Alicia Herrin, director of the SBC. “We are a community-based provider of free confidential one-on-one business counseling, training, and resource information. We work collaboratively with the organizations that were present at SBA Day and enjoy being a part of a team of providers that support small business development within North Carolina.”
For more information about the SBC, contact Herrin at 704-991-0182 or aherrin2506@stanly.edu.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.