As Oregon experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases and restrictions related to the pandemic have put businesses in financially challenging positions, the Lane Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is building momentum for an online support system.
Lane Business Link, an SBDC project to bring together Lane County resource partners in a searchable database, was created to connect businesses to local resources, advisors and education.
Robert Killen, director of SBDC, aims to create a “world-class business resource ecosystem” with the website, which will offer “immediate and frictionless access to the resources they need to thrive,” he said.
SBDC provides business education, advising and mentoring for small businesses in Lane County.
Oregon Small Business Development Centers are funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and by the Oregon Business Development Department. Lane Community College is SBDC’s primary funding agent.
The organization began expanding on its database in 2019 for the purpose of providing support for businesses throughout Lane County, resulting in the Lane Business Link project.
To build momentum for the project, Killen addressed the Cottage Grove City Council on Nov. 9 and appealed to the city to become a partner.
Killen described the current business landscape as filled with business owners who feel isolated and have difficulty finding help.
However, he said the resources are out there.
“Simply put, we don’t suffer a lack of resources. We suffer a lack of belief in those resources,” he said.
Killen hopes to change that narrative by recruiting not just business clients, but a healthy pool of resource partners.
“It’s the back-end value that has the potential to change the story,” he said. “’When you, Mr. Business Owner need help, we’ll help you get it.’ That’s the new story.”
There are currently 50 agencies on board, said Killen, and he expects that number to grow to nearly 100 in the next year.
On the front-end, users may search by stage of business, region and area of focus to browse a growing list of local resources.
SBDC also monitors the business support ecosystem, convenes regular summits of the partners and shares educational opportunities and information.
The City of Cottage Grove has already partnered as a resource and has its own page on the site.
In his appeal to the city council, Killen also asked for a statement of support from the city speaking to the value of collaborating to help businesses.
“Collectively, we can do so much more,” he said.
Mayor Jeff Gowing and Councilor Candace Solesbee voiced their approval for the project.
“I’m happy to support any effort that goes into Cottage Grove businesses and the support of Cottage Grove in general,” said Solesbee.
The city will provide a statement of support for the project, said City Manager Richard Meyers.
“With the support of you, of local municipalities throughout Lane County, we can change the story, and by doing so, I believe we can change business for the better in Cottage Grove and beyond,” Killen said.
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