Monroe chamber prepares for economic growth

BARBARA CARSLUND

BARBARA CARSLUND

WOODSFIELD — Monroe County business leaders and government officials are counting on an upswing in the local economy, mostly due to activity in the oil and natural gas industry.

Barbara Carslund of the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce said she is optimistic that jobs and industry are on their way to the county, and her organization is helping to pave the way for progress. According to Carslund, the county is poised to reap the benefits of the “oil and gas explosion,” and the county must be prepared to take advantage of the economic expansion by helping existing small businesses expand and by helping those who would like to open new businesses.

“We are working right now with the oil and gas industry and trying to get our local businesses trained in cooperation with the Small Business Development Center in Marietta,” Carslund said. “They offer many services as the regional office there in Marietta, but we are working to get more training sessions here in Monroe County.”

The Small Business Development Center is a free public resource providing technical assistance for small businesses. There are 28 SBDCs throughout Ohio that provide “no-cost, confidential, in-depth, one-on-one counseling for businesses that will or currently employ under 500 employees. Additional services include training, e-counseling, quality-based assessments, technical assistance, loan packaging guidance, and information on federal, state, and local regulations and programs,” according to Ohio.gov.

The SBDC network is provided through a partnership between the Ohio Development Services Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Ohio chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, and economic development agencies. Together, they contribute more than $10 million toward support of small business development in Ohio, including in Monroe County.

The Monroe County Chamber of Commerce heard from John Voorhies of the Marietta SBDC on Tuesday, when he outlined his agency’s services for small businesses. He said his organization helps with business plans, programs, marketing, accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, regulatory compliance, public relations and access to capital.

“I cover four counties — Monroe, Washington, Noble and Morgan counties. My job is to help you with business plans,” Voorhies said. “I’ve got great research available to you, great programs that we use. I can really whittle down a lot of information for you. We can help you with your financials, which is really important. It usually boils down to marketing and financing.”

Voorhies said his organization can also help existing businesses to increase profits and expand production.

“We will do actual evaluations to determine areas where you can improve, and determine areas where you are doing great,” Voorhies added. “Right now, between our three regional offices we are pushing close to $4 million in impact. … Since October I have started 40 businesses. Most of those businesses are one or two or three employees. If I can keep them going for two or three years, and the next thing is they are hiring someone else, then I am doing my job. That is what I’m supposed to do.”

Voorhies encouraged the use of his organization for everything from filling out LLC paperwork to general advice, and especially marketing on social media.

“I am a resource, and I’m free. How can you beat free? Free is good,” Voorhies said.

The SBDC will be holding a free training session at the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 14 titled “Accounting 101.” Call the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce at 740-472-5499 to register for the class.

Carslund said the Monroe County chamber will be hosting more training sessions within the county, and she encourages those who are interested in learning more about opening up a new business to attend the training sessions, as well as other chamber events.

“Encourage people to come to these sessions so we can keep this training here in Monroe County so they don’t have to go to Cambridge or Marietta,” Carslund said. “If you have suggestions on topics, please be sure to let us know.”

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