Small Business Road Show
GRAND RAPIDS — Since every business starts out small it only makes sense that the community would collaborate efforts to grow small businesses and assist them in succeeding. So, after test runs in Pittsburgh and Detroit, the Small Business Tour has swept into Grand Rapids and perhaps visited a business near you.
Joining forces are National City Bank, U.S. Small Business Administration, the City of Grand Rapids, GROW, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Kent Area MicroBusiness Loan Services, SCORE and the Michigan Small Business Development Center, which together have formed the local version of the Small Business Tour.
We had a similar program with our affiliate in Pittsburgh and then we brought it to the Detroit market last October, and then this summer to the Grand Rapids area, said Mike Dengate, vice president of small business banking for National City. It was very well received over on the east side of the state and the local chapters of the organizations we had worked with were willing to bring it to this area.
On June 12, 13 and 14, teams made up of members from the participating organizations visited approximately 40 local businesses to answer questions and provide information on the resources available to assist those particular businesses.
Sometimes small businesses are not aware that these resources are available or they dont have time to go out and look for them, explained Dengate. Today we are taking the show on the road and taking these services to their doorsteps. We want to help keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.
The teams, strategically created in response to needs identified by the business owner in a pre-meeting questionnaire, visited each business for a one-hour consultation. A team member will also follow up with that business in the coming months.
Auto FixIt Body Shop, owned by Mike and Mary Hoogerheide, was one of the businesses visited by a team of representatives during the Small Business Tour.
Being a small business owner, I feel I need all the help I can get. It is great for all of these people to volunteer their time and assist me in better running my business. I now have resources for many of the questions I have been asking since I bought the business, said Mike Hoogerheide.
Doug Morgenstern, vice president and area manager of small business banking for National City; Ed Garner, executive director of KAMLS, Tom Vargo from the SBA and Judy Thome from SCORE were on hand to answer the Hoogerheides questions.
Some issues discussed throughout the meeting were where to apply for a small loan, how to receive an SBA loan, how to develop a business plan and who to talk to about road and sidewalk repairs and governmental issues.
During the discussion Garner took notes on questions Hoogerheide had or problems he needed solved.
We are not expecting to solve all of these problems today, but we will take them back with us. Our objective was to fact-find and we had two goals in this program, said Garner.
We wanted to first give awareness to the small businesses about resources and programs out there and bring that information to them. Secondly, we will follow up on the majority of these issues.
Each question or problem will be directed to the correct organization, which will then deal with the issue and follow up with the business.
Garner said the partner organizations hope to develop timetables to complete the tasks at hand and work with the businesses to solve problems and to possibly foresee future problems that may occur.
SBA and National City plan to make the Small Business Tour an annual event in the Grand Rapids area.
We want to encourage small businesses to meet the needs of the community and through these partnerships we can assist in the success, said Carol Sheets, mayor pro tem of the City of Wyoming.
These businesses are the backbone of our community and after all, big businesses are just small businesses that grew up.