Archived Story

Initiatives put focus back on small business

Published 9:41am Monday, October 26, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

President Obama tried last week to bring some attention to the world of small businesses and their owners who continue to struggle to keep their doors open by announcing new initiatives to increase the size of various Small Businesses Administration loans that often help owners purchase or equipment, acquire land and even just open the door.

But while the President was able to outline increases in funding, the question of whether that funding will make to many struggling small businesses in time – and whether it will actually help at all – remains.

Currently in areas such as Niles the small businesses community is an ever-changing thing, with locally owned and operated retail stores going out of business and machine shops and manufacturing plants still reeling from the economic and industrial woes that reached their peak within the last two years.
When it comes to those manufacturing concentrated businesses, Shelley Klug, executive director of the Southwest Michigan Economic Growth Alliance (SMEGA) said challenges still face owners on a day to day basis.

“People need to look at who are providing the jobs and who are the job providers,” she said. “And why aren’t we doing everything we can to make them more profitable?”

Though the administration wants to increase the limits of SBA loans, that may not mean much to those business owners who have already exhausted many of their financial options with local lenders who have also been bending in order to try and keep them in business.

In some cases, those businesses may be running out of time and while they may find relief in securing projects to keep their shops running – finding the money for the material needed for those projects is a different story, leaving the business owner with work to do but no money to do it – and that is a gap that could stand to be addressed, Klug said.

To try and provide information to business owners, commercial lenders and municipal leaders, the Berrien County Manufacturers Council is sponsoring a financial information seminar Thursday..  The luncheon will include presentations by Michigan Economic Development Corporation representatives Mike Flanagan discussing Michigan’s Capital Access Program (CAP), and Eric Hanna explaining the Michigan Supplier Diversification Fund.

Lisa Epple will provide updated information regarding the USDA Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program and recent ARRA enhancements including new information related to eligible areas, eligible projects, and Michigan’s funding goal of $57 million in guaranteed ARRA funds.

In Michigan some criticism regarding the challenges of small business owners has come down heavily

An increase in SBA loans might not help the state’s tax structure but it might not hurt.
“If the administration were able to give more of a small business loan then that would be helpful,” Klug said.
Manufacturing has taken a particularly hard hit. But Klug said she believed that the industry would bounce back – even if not to where it once stood back in the 1990s.

The Berrien County Manufacturer Council is trying to aid those in the industry, Klug said, “as we offer a number of networking opportunities and educational seminars where business owners/CEOs can receive free legal, financial, and marketing advice as well as come in contact with government representatives and representatives of other business-help organizations such as the USDA Rural Development, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, MEDC, the SBTDC, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), and many others.”

This week’s luncheon, she said, will give business owners a chance to hear not only “about the financial programs directly from the program managers, but they will also have the opportunity to meet with local bankers to understand how they can better position themselves to be successful when applying for loans.  We hope to dispel a lot of myths as well as encourage dialogue that will help all who are involved in business and business lending.

“In this business environment,” she continued. “We need to rethink our strategies and take advantage of whatever opportunities we can to learn how to succeed in the new economy whether that means diversifying or changing business tactics and marketing methods.”

Today is the last day to RSVP for the luncheon, which is $10 per person and will be held at the Berrien County RESA Building located in Berrien Springs at 711 St. Joseph Ave. (formerly known as the ISD building).

Those interested can RSVP by calling (269) 683-1833 or send an e-mail to smega1@sbcglobal.net.

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