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SBDC grant aimed at aid for businesses stressed by energy slump

Jul 13, 2017 - From staff reports

Small businesses in Wyoming that have been hit hard by the state's economic downturn will receive additional assistance in the form of a grant that provides training and advising through the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

The SBDC received a $100,000 award for the Portable Assistance Grant from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Each year, the SBA provides an opportunity -- in the form of grants -- for states that can demonstrate a "qualifying event" that results in the loss of jobs through economic hardships or government closings. This year, the SBA set aside three awards specifically to assist coal-dependent communities.

The Wyoming SBDC is among the three selected, and one of only 11 overall recipients where the opportunity was available to the 63 SBDCs across the nation. This grant will provide training and guidance specific to assist small businesses already started, and persons who may be interested in starting small businesses. Training opportunities will be in business planning; innovative strategies in an economic downturn; managing finances more effectively; and using a company's financials to manage; marketing; and retail and restaurant strategies during difficult economic conditions.

The SBDC is a partnership among the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council and the U.S. SBA. The SBDC focuses on educating and training small-business owners and potential owners on how to successfully start and operate small businesses. The SBDC's state office is located at UW, with offices across the state.

"The Portable Assistance Grant will allow us to provide focused support to small businesses to help them improve their efficiency and to retool their strategies for a shifting market as necessary," says Jill Kline, state director for the Wyoming SBDC Network. "We also will be able to provide much-needed information to displaced workers who may be considering the options of starting their own businesses and need that additional guidance to get them started."

A key component of the grant is its collaborative efforts among other community and state business resource partners, and economic development agencies, she says. The Wyoming SBDC will work closely with federal, local and statewide organizations to assure that small businesses in the communities are made aware of the opportunities afforded by this grant or already available to them through other resources currently in place.

Many of the training sessions will be conducted in workshops located in the communities hardest hit by the decline in energy revenues. Other sessions will be provided virtually for small businesses across the state to participate and benefit.

The training sessions will be provided by a combination of SBDC staff and experts brought in because of their specific experience with these types of issues.

Wyoming's Powder River Basin has felt the most direct impact from coal mine layoffs. This central and northeast Wyoming area includes Campbell, Converse, Crook, Johnson, Natrona, Platte, Sheridan and Weston counties.

The Wyoming SBDC will target the following:

- Individuals interested in exploring the possibility of starting businesses with the skills and talents they possess.

- Those existing businesses that can offer skills and abilities that may be put to alternative uses (outside of the energy industry).

- Existing businesses whose services are still necessary, but in lesser demand.

- Second-stage companies often require a different approach from typical small businesses. In the energy-sector impacted communities, there are companies that are distressed entirely due to the downturn, but that are still run efficiently. The Economic Gardening assistance approach allows these companies to work with knowledgeable professionals to explore new and alternative markets, improve performance and seek new opportunities.

- Assistance and training for existing businesses supporting the energy industry and/or those affected by the massive layoffs and closures are critical at this time. The Wyoming SBDC can provide the following assistance opportunities, either through workshop training opportunities or one-on-one assistance, to target both existing and startup concerns: "Is Self-Employment an Option?" or "Is Entrepreneurship for Me?" There is a proposal to deliver two live sessions in appropriate locations.

- "Start Your Own Business" or "What It Takes to Start and Operate a Business." There is a proposal to deliver three live sessions in appropriate locations and one virtual session.

- "Sustain Your Business" and/or "Choices a Business Must Face in an Economic Downturn"; and "You and Your Business, Weathering an Economic Downturn" or "Business Planning and Maintenance During a Turbulent Economy." A potential contractor workshop is "Winning in the Trust and Value Economy: Innovative Strategies to Make This Economy Work for You!" There is a proposal to deliver one abbreviated virtual session with one subsequent live session.

- A two-day course, "Using Your Financials to Manage Your Business," will be offered. A potential contractor workshop is "Rolling Forecasts, The Wave of the Future." There is a proposal to deliver two live sessions in separate locations.

- A two-hour webinar, titled "Cash Flow Management (Where's the Money?)" There is a proposal to deliver one live session.

- Market research, using the Economic Gardening philosophy for diversification or assisting a business to pivot. Based on needs assessed by local staff, Market Research Center staff will provide customized training on topics such as internet marketing, understanding gap analysis, website design and market trends. There is a proposal to deliver one training center in person or virtually.

- "Digital Marketing Opportunities to Get Your Business on the Map" is a webinar opportunity for any business with a web presence. This would include website review and analysis (search engine optimization). There is a proposal to offer one webinar and encourage one-on-one training.

- A virtual workshop, titled "Survival by Transition," is proposed to discuss succession or transition planning. There is a proposal to offer one virtual session.

- Potential contractor Tom Shay, a retail expert with Profits Plus Solutions Inc., could deliver a webinar to assist retailers with strategies on how to survive an economic downturn; help retailers position themselves for a declining market; and how to make educated decisions for a retail business in an economic downturn.

- Potential contractor Chris Tripoli, a restaurant expert with Food Service Consulting Group, could offer a webinar to assist restaurant owners with strategies for restauranteurs to survive an economic downturn; help restauranteurs position themselves for a declining market; and discuss how to make educated decisions for a business in an economic downturn.
 

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