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Chamber to launch entrepreneur-friendly initiative

POSTED: August 18, 2007 5:04 a.m.

Effingham County Chamber President Freddy Long announced the formation of a new Chamber task force that will assist would-be entrepreneurs and small businesses in Effingham County.

The initiative, which is a part of a statewide effort conducted in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, is designed to enhance the success of new businesses, identify growth companies and expand the local economy by helping growth oriented companies.

“We are excited about becoming an ‘Entrepreneur Friendly Community’ and joining 59 other Georgia communities that have met the program’s criteria,” Long said.

Begun two years ago by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the initiative has merged several state agencies into one coordinated effort to champion the needs of small business and help would-be business owners better utilize the resources to succeed.

“Homegrown businesses and entrepreneurs create quality jobs that are integral to ensuring prosperity and opportunity throughout Georgia,” said Perdue. “By encouraging and supporting small businesses, we are investing in a stronger future for local communities and the state as a whole.”

The local effort is being chaired by Scott Hinson, owner of Hinson’s Georgia Market. Working with him as the board liaison is Talbert Edenfield of Edenfield Financial Investments.

“As entrepreneurs and owners of successful local businesses, these two gentlemen have a first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed and grow an enterprise,” Long added.

The process of becoming an entrepreneur friendly community usually takes six months. Effingham County must complete its requirements by Aug. 1, 2008. The local group hopes to finish its work by January.

First, a community must establish a group who will champion the needs of small business. The Chamber task force is composed of a cross section (15-member group) of entrepreneurs, educators and professionals. They will identify all local and regional resources that assist start-up businesses and smaller business enterprises that employ 20 or fewer persons.

The group will also inventory all small businesses in Effingham County and conduct a survey of needs in the marketplace.

Upon tabulating the state sanctioned survey, local officials will develop an action plan and customer service scenario to grow the local economy through the expansion of local businesses.

“We know that over 90 percent of growth in the local economy comes from existing businesses,” Hinson said. “Because of that, it is most important that we aggressively pursue activities that positively affect that growth.”

As part of a promotion and marketing group, volunteers will form a speakers bureau and publish news releases of all of the task force’s activities.

There will be a research-resource group that will inventory all existing local, regional, state and federal agencies that currently serve small businesses here. This group will publish a one-stop how-to guide for would-be entrepreneurs starting a business. Through its efforts, officials hope to enhance relationships with area colleges offering assistance.

The major task ahead, according to Hinson, will be to conduct the small business survey. According to research already compiled, there are over 3,500 enterprises with business licenses in Effingham County. The task force must determine who should receive the survey and how it will be distributed. Plans now are to use email and Web-based resources and mail directly to others who are not linked electronically.

Upon completion of the survey, the task force will design a small business resource center to be housed at the Chamber and serve as a one-stop shop for assistance. The resource center will be a place for one-on-one counseling, Internet tele-seminars, a resource library and a direct link via the Web to area colleges and universities and state and federal agencies.

“This will be a unique facility and will be available to all persons wanting to start a business,” Hinson added.

Also on the drawing board are options for existing businesses.

For more call the Chamber at 754-3301.

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