AROOSTOOK COUNTY— It’s no stretch to say small business is the backbone of the U.S. economy. Half of all private sector employees work for small businesses. According to the U.S. Department of Labor 65 percent of the 15 million net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009 were in small business. Impressive numbers, but another number that is equally impressive, but for the wrong reason is, 660,900 firms closed in 2009. From that it is apparent — running a small business is hard, but there is help available.
Maine Small Business Development Centers (Maine SBDC) are dedicated to helping the state’s small businesses succeed. Through a network of Service Centers, SBDC counselors engage small business owners and micro business owners in development activities that help improve their chances for success, as well improve the economic climate throughout Maine.
The Northern Maine Development Commission’s Rod Thompson has headed up the SBDC for northern Maine for almost 25 years.
“We provide free one-on-one technical assistance,” said Thompson. “About half the folks I see are ones that want to start a business. I have also worked with a lot of existing businesses to help with optimizing their databases, their computer systems and I do a lot of market research for people.”
The variety of assistance Thompson and SBDC can offer potential and current small business owners is extensive and can include: accounting, business liquidation/sale, business start-up/acquisition, government procurement, financial management, international trade, loan packaging, market research, marketing and sales, operations, personnel management, record keeping, cash flow analysis, and sources of credit and financing.
Training programs are also offered around the region.
“In rural areas most small businesses have 10 or less employees,” Thompson said. “Those are the ones that create a lot of the jobs.”
Thompson likes to point out that for every dollar spent by the SBDC in Maine, on average more than two dollars is generated in federal and state tax revenue.
“The return on investment is very good,” he added.
Over the past two decades Thompson has a hand in helping hundreds of small businesses start up, grow and in many cases flourish, but he also said giving potential business folks cold hard facts and the start of the process is equally rewarding.
“That’s why I have stayed here this long, because of the satisfaction of helping someone a little bit,” he said. “And it usually only a little bit because a lot of the folks who come in here are really smart people and they may need only a little guidance. I also get satisfaction in helping people decide opening a business may not be a good idea for various reasons, which may save them $50,000 or $100,000 bucks.”
A quick look at some of the work Thompson and the SBDC in Northern Maine has done over the past year shows more than $3 million in capital raised, 50 or 60 jobs and about 20 or 25 small businesses have started.
Thompson encourages anyone who is thinking about starting a business or an ongoing business that may need some assistance in a specific area, like market research, marketing or operations, to get in touch with the SBDC.
More information is available at www.mainesbdc.org, www.nmdc.org or by contacting Thompson at (800) 427-8736. SBDC is a partnership program of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the University of Southern Maine and NMDC.
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