Latest numbers confirm role of business centers in promoting economy

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The numbers quantify what Julie Morey deems the important work of helping entrepreneurs.

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Grand Junction Morey manages counseled 703 clients during 2011. Those clients in turn created 77 jobs, retained 138 jobs and started 34 businesses.

While most new businesses start out necessarily small, Morey considers the SBDC as important a component of economic development as recruiting large firms. “In this tough economy right now, every business start matters. Every job matters,” said Morey, director of the center.

Statewide, a network of 14 centers counseled a total more than 5,500 entrepreneurs, resulting in the creation and retention of 5,400 jobs in 2011. The effort also produced a total of more than

$88 million in government and private-sector contracts and more than $150 million in capital infusion, according to figures released by the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA).

The network surpassed SBA goals for job creation, job retention, business startups, contract dollars awarded and capital formation.

“With Colorado’s employment growth rate of 2.2 percent among the strongest in the nation, the SBDC is a strategic partner helping small companies rebound,” said Greg Lopez, SBA Colorado district director. “The network is committed to providing the most innovative counseling services available in the nation so that Colorado small businesses earn a profit and hire more workers.”

Kelly Manning, state director of the SBDC network, said the centers promote job growth. “The centers are phenomenal in moving businesses in the right direction and improving Colorado’s economy one business at a time.”

The operations of SBDCs are funded by the SBA and the support of the communities in which they’re located.

In Grand Junction, the SBDC receives a $95,000 annual grant from the SBA that’s matched by local support in the form of cash and other contributions, Morey said.

The SBDC is located in the Business Incubator Center, which provides space. Local professionals volunteer their time to coach aspiring entrepreneurs as well as lead classes and presentations, Morey said. “It would just not happen without them.”

The centers provide a range of free and low-cost services to new and existing businesses, including counseling, technical assistance and training in starting and managing ventures.

In Grand Junction, those services include a popular presentation on business startups that offers an overview of licensing requirements, planning and financing options.

Morey said the center has been busy helping aspiring entrepreneurs looking to create their own jobs in the aftermath of a recession. Unlike the last major downturn that followed the oil shale bust in Western Colorado, however, financing for startups has been more difficult to obtain in recent years, she said.

Entrepreneurs have had to downsize their dreams and look to other sources for funding, including family and friends, Morey said.

But the collective economic effects of small businesses that do get started can be substantial, she said. “It’s a big benefit to all of us.”