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Pierce, College of Canyons Lead SBA Assistance Efforts

Two community colleges will lead U.S. Small Business Administration program efforts in the San Fernando Valley. Pierce College and College of the Canyons have teamed together to begin this month counseling and seminars at the Build WorkSource building in Northridge. Making the services available as part of the SBA’s Small Business Development Center program is a way for Pierce’s Economic and Workforce Development office to start being more visible in the business community, director Judith Trester said. “The (college) administration wanted us to get our feet wet before moving on to the next level,” Trester said. The SBDC program is the SBA’s most extensive economic development program, one that attempts to help small businesses create jobs and strengthen the economy. The SBDC program is the SBA’s largest counseling and training network with locations in every U.S. state and territory. The lead SBDC institution holds the contract with the SBA and administers and operates the area’s SBDC program. In the case of the Valley, the lead agency is Long Beach City College, which in turn was supported in its efforts to get the contract by eight other agencies, including College of the Canyons. College of the Canyons receives $250,000 from the Small Business Administration through Long Beach City College to staff and operate the Northridge location, and sites serving the Palmdale and Lancaster areas. But turned down by Long Beach to be one of its partners was the Valley Economic Development Center, the agency that operated several SBDC offices in the Valley when California State University Northridge was the lead center. “We asked to continue to serve the Valley and they declined,” said VEDC President Roberto Barragan. “They basically said that we were not part of their original application and there was no room for us.” Attempts to reach Sheneui Sloan, director of the Small Business Development Center at Long Beach City College, were not successful. CSUN had been the lead center for the program beginning in July 2003 and when it decided to opt out of that role, the VEDC put in a bid as a replacement. The lead center designation instead went to Long Beach, which led the Van Nuys-based VEDC to close small business development center offices in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Glendale, South Los Angeles and Santa Monica, resulting in up to 10 people being laid off. But Barragan said the Northridge office won’t even come close to replacing the services for Valley businesses his organization provided. When the Valley Economic Development Center administered the SBDC program, about 4,000 businesses were served a year and hundreds of seminars were given, Barragan said. “Any business could walk in five days a week and meet one on one with a consultant and it was right here in the Valley,” Barragan said. In addition to the money from Long Beach, the College of the Canyons center will be funded with $50,000 from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office; $100,000 cash contribution from the College of the Canyons; and $125,000 in-kind donation from the college, said Karen Meyers, interim director of the small business development center at College of the Canyons. Under the VEDC, there were six full-time employees in Van Nuys as compared to three a director, assistant director and a specialist who will work out of office space at the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce under the new arrangement. In the meantime, Meyers said, she is in the process of bringing on board the personnel who will interact with business owners. “I’ve been talking with consultants who have a certain expertise from loan packaging to accounting to marketing and advertising to how to do a business plan,” Meyers said.

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