SMALLBIZ/dobb/21 inches/1stjc/mark2nd CQ on phone numbers DreamWorks SKG made big news when city officials helped arrange a $70 million package of incentives, tax credits and savings to induce this large employer to locate within the Los Angeles. That caused lots of small and medium sized companies that I work with to ask, “Hey, what about me? I employ people and could use some help too.” Help is available for smaller Southern California companies located both in and outside of Los Angeles. Elected officials have come to realize that small businesses are the new job creation and tax generating engine of the ’90s. Many large corporations have either fled or restructured themselves out of the region especially those in the defense industry. In order to keep smaller businesses and help them expand, local government, utilities and regulatory agencies are offering a host of services that can save you time, money and give you a leg up on the competition. State-sponsored small business development centers are located in Sherman Oaks, Burbank, Torrance, Ventura and other communities. These non-profits offer free consulting services to smaller companies on everything from marketing to computerization, and have solid resource libraries that offer many standard business references. For questions about expanding your business, converting it out of defense, or overcoming the impact of base closures, earthquake, flood or fire, contact TEAM CALIFORNIA at 1 (800) 326-2606. They can direct you to the development center closest to you. Regional small business development corporations are financial intermediaries sponsored by the state that offer entrepreneurial training, technical assistance and specialized loan guarantee programs. Generally geared to loans under $250,000, these corporations fill credit niches not met by conventional lenders, such as loans to replace underground storage tanks. For larger loans to purchase land, building and equipment up to $ 4 million the Small Business Administration sponsors certified development corporations. The region has three prominent ones: California Statewide Certified Development Corporation, the Long Beach Area Certified Development Corporation and La Habra Certified Development Corporation. All are independent non-profits that are licensed to tap into SBA economic development loan funds. Focusing on Los Angeles County, the Community Development Commission ( an affiliate of the County) and the Economic Development Corporation of Los Angeles County both sponsor programs that deliver assistance to businesses. The county has a number of loan programs for businesses outside of incorporated areas or inside smaller cities (population under 50,000). They focus on aerospace and defense impacted companies. The EDC is not in the lending business. Its efforts focus more on advocacy, stimulating private and public investment in technology ventures and supporting consortia of emerging industries. They seek to stimulate entrepreneurial ventures and regional high technology-based companies that will create a lot of jobs in a short period. At a more local level, city governments across the region have launched economic development offices, such as L.A.’s Business Team. These offices can serve as the starting place for exploring regional resources. If your business is located in their jurisdiction, you can expect to find a willing reference guide to all the phone numbers, addressees and contacts you need for whatever specialized service you’re seeking. Southern California Gas Co. actually provides free engineering services to small firms with energy related issues. Apartment owners seeking to understand the most efficient, low-cost means of supplying their buildings with hot water might be surprised at the extent to which Gas Co. personnel can help solve problems. These services are generally free and worth asking for before replacing a boiler, retrofitting a production line or trying to reduce energy costs. The South Coast Air Quality Management District is a little-known resource that can help with technical issues relating to air pollution control. AQMD has an office of small business assistance that helps find pollution-control equipment, determines business permit needs and even guarantees a loan to help a company come into compliance. For years the idea of economic development in Southern California was a quiet joke among ED professionals across the country. L.A. was where all the companies fled the Rust Belt and other aging urban areas. After the l992 riots, people stopped laughing and by the time the Northridge quake hit in 1994, L.A. zoomed to the top of everyone’s list as the Distress Capital of the Nation. Now that distress is leading to substantive economic development. An excellent, easy to read reference source has been developed by Councilman Rudy Svorinich, Jr. Called the “Business Resource Guide to Financial and Economic Development Incentives,” this 40-page booklet can be obtained by contacting Mark Warnick at (310) 548-7526. Bruce Dobb is the chief credit officer for the Valley Economic Development Center’s revolving loan fund.