CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Small Business Development Center’s most-recent data revealed “continued job creation and economic growth in the Mountain State."
“Over the last five years, our 17 business coaches in all 55 counties have assisted with creating 2,507 jobs, retaining 893 jobs, starting 596 new businesses and leveraging over $90 million dollars in capital for our clients,” said WV SBDC state director Erika Bailey said in the release.
Erika Bailey | WV SBDC
WV SBDC said 34 percent of its work in 2017 involved serving existing businesses.
“The rest of the time was divided between businesses in operation for a year or less and pre-venture clients - people asking for information about starting a business,” the release said.
“West Virginia’s existing businesses have the greatest potential for high growth in employment, revenue creation and economic prosperity,” Bailey said in the release.
Bailey told The West Virginia Record that “WV SBDC helps businesses lay a solid foundation on which to build success through training and one-on-one business coaching.”
“We provide the services and assistance a business needs throughout the development process including concept, startup and growth,” Bailey said. “Many of our coaches have entrepreneurial experience themselves and are highly skilled individuals with professional certifications in areas such as economic development, finance, marketing and exporting.”
In addition, Bailey said WV SBDC provides low-cost business training workshops, free one-on-one confidential advising from its business coaches, advice of aspects of starting and running a business such as developing a viable business plan, marketing, innovation and management skills, as well as providing connections with business financing.
“WV SBDC does not give loans or grants – but we can help companies be aware of and prepare for capital access opportunities,” Bailey said.
According to Bailey, WV SBDC successes include the story of Emily Benigni, who purchased the Elkins Montessori School in Elkins with $340,000 in loans that the center helped her get.
“Through Emily’s acquisition of this small business, four jobs were retained and seven more were created,” Bailey said. “Through our services at the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, we assisted with business feasibility, interpretation of previous owner’s historic financials, cash flow, business plan development and financial projections.”
In addition, Bailey said Potomac Eagle Scenic Rail Excursions turned to WV SBDC after it completed an organizational restructuring in 2016.
For Potomac Eagle, Bailey said the center provided help “with the training needs of their growing workforce and technical writing assistance for a lease renewal on the rail lines that was about to expire.”
“Obtaining the lease renewal was a key step in the company’s plan to double its ridership over the next five years,” Bailey said.
Over the past five years, Bailey said 3,550 clients have been coached through WV SBDC, and 2,551 individuals have attended training offered by the center.
Bailey said a statewide survey of small businesses in 2016 showed that challenges most faced by businesses include the cost of health care, identifying and hiring qualified employees, cost and availability of broadband internet service, the strength of local and regional markets and business personal property taxes.