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VEDC Offers Financial Resources, Expertise to Firms

VEDC Offers Financial Resources, Expertise to Firms Publisher’s Award – Valley Economic Development Center By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter More than a quarter of a century ago, the Valley Economic Development Center was founded to revitalize the sluggish economy of Van Nuys. Its role today is largely the same, only the organization now serves San Fernando Valley and beyond. “We are the biggest small business development center in Southern California,” said Roberto Barragan, president of the VEDC, which has received the Business Journal Publisher’s Award for its work with small businesses. The organization’s budget has quadrupled since 1994 and it grew six-fold in the number of employees. Today, it has a budget of $4 million and 60 employees in nine offices throughout Southern California. Three of them are in the Valley, including the headquarters in Van Nuys and two branches in Pacoima. One of the Pacoima offices was opened immediately after the 1992 riots. VEDC proved instrumental to the survival of small businesses in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The organization helped hundreds of businesses secure Small Business Administration loans in addition to direct loans. Overall, VEDC has supplied more than 10,000 businesses with more than $100 million in loan financing in the last decade, Barragan said. A third of the VEDC budget is derived from the federal government, about 25 percent from the City of Los Angeles, about 15 percent from earned income and the rest consists of contributions from banks and individuals. VEDC can dole out loans from $1,000 to $700,000, depending on a particular business’ needs. Last year, VEDC gave out 400 loans worth about $10 million total. “It’s rare that we can’t find the money they need,” Barragan said. More than money But it’s not just all about loans at VEDC it’s got other resources for small businesses. It provides business consulting, accounting and personnel help and hosts more than 200 workshops per year targeting entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. Vickie Brooks, founder and owner of Mirror, Mirror, a Woodland Hills-based feng shui store, participated in the 11-week Entrepreneurial Training Workshop through VEDC. She did not have to pay for the workshop, which was fully subsidized by VEDC. Brooks, who opened her business in 2000, attended the workshop several months prior at the recommendation of a friend. She walked away with more ideas about what she should do and what not to do. “When you open up your business it’s your perspective, but they give you many different perspectives,” Brooks said. One of the most useful recommendations Brooks received was about advertising. She said VEDC consultants advised her to use mailing lists, as opposed to advertising in magazines and newspapers, she said. She also praised the consultants’ style of presentation. “They really do think outside the box they draw from creativity,” Brooks said. “It’s stimulating and arousing to know you can have this.” Focus on Pacoima In addition to offering workshops, VEDC has focused its efforts on revitalizing Pacoima. Barragan, who has been president for 4 1/2 years, said the VEDC has focused on that impoverished region, helping train residents for jobs and nurturing small businesses in the area. Barragan said Pacoima has a 20 percent unemployment rate among its population, 30 percent poverty rate and 55 percent of students drop out before finishing high school. For these reasons, VEDC has “committed to making change” in the region, and has contacted L.A. City Councilman Alex Padilla to partner up. One of the projects already underway in Pacoima is VEDC’s Pacoima Workforce Development Initiative, which has instituted a medical profession training program called HEAT. Through the program, more than 200 Pacoima residents are helped in finding employment in office clerk, medical billing and admissions positions. The VEDC also “serves an advocacy role” for small businesses and hosts the Small Business Development Center, funded by the SBA, said Frank Brancale, spokesperson for the SBA’s Los Angeles District office based in Glendale.

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