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Chamber wants to get seeds to grow businesses
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Effingham County Chamber of Commerce officials hope a visit to Valdosta will help them grow small businesses here.
Effingham’s contingent will see what Valdosta’s chamber of commerce has done with its renowned and successful Home Grown Entrepreneur Program. Valdosta’s small business resource center is called SEEDS, the Sowing Entrepreneur and Economic Development Success Center.

The SEEDS Center offers a reference library, market research databases, on-site consultation, work space and other materials to help entrepreneurs in starting and building their businesses.

“I’m really, really proud of our entrepreneurship committee,” Effingham Chamber President Freddy Long said. “We’re really excited about it.”

The local chamber is in the process of getting an entrepreneur-friendly designation from the state and wants to be able to start a small business resource center.

“We have not had a resource place to start this,” Long said.

That place could help answer questions from prospective business owners, such as “where does he go to get started and where does he need to go get financing,” Long said.

It’s not just getting a business off the ground that the small business resource center comes into effect; it’s also keeping that business running.

“It’s great to go into business for yourself,” Long said. “It’s another thing to stay in it. We’re also going to be here to help them stay in business.”

Long is himself a small business owner with eight full-time employees.

The Chamber’s recent membership drive swelled its ranks to more than 450 members.

“Most of our expansion is coming from existing businesses,” Chamber Executive Director Ken Stoner said.

Effingham Industrial Development Authority Chief Executive Officer John Henry said there is a possibility of a $25,000 grant to get a small business resource center started in Effingham.

“The small business resource center goes hand-in-hand with an entrepreneur-friendly community,” he said.

The state now has 63 entrepreneur friendly communities as designated by the Department of Economic Development.

Laurens County, with 91 percent of its 2,014 companies employing 20 or fewer people, was the latest to earn the recognition.

Qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners in Laurens County are eligible for customized market data, such as demographic and business information.