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Small business center shares plans, successes

Posted: Friday, Jan 4th, 2013

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — San Luis Valley businesses have a local ally with SLV Small Business Development Center Director Donna Wehe.

Wehe provides assistance to new and existing businesses throughout the Valley.

This week she presented an annual report to the Alamosa city council and shared new projects coming soon to the area, such as Connect 2 DOT (Department of Transportation.)

Wehe’s office will be one of the selected Connect 2 DOT sites outside the Denver metro area where local contractors can obtain information about Colorado Department of Transportation projects going to bid. Connect 2 DOT is CDOT’s new initiative to involve more small businesses in transportation projects.

Wehe explained that in the past businesses that wanted to bid on CDOT projects would have to go to Denver for assistance with the process, and CDOT only had to advertise its projects in Denver. CDOT wanted its projects to be more accessible statewide, especially to small businesses, so it chose business hubs to work with around the state. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offices are partnering with CDOT in this project, and the SLV SBDC office is one of five in 2013 rolling out the Connect 2 DOT program.

“We are going to work with CDOT to do more of their outreach,” Wehe told the city council.

Wehe will be hiring a part-time staff member to work with this project.

“The Colorado Small Business Development Center is the state’s only jointly public and private sponsored business development resource that has access points in every region of the state,” said Debra Gallegos, CDOT’s director for the Center for Equal Opportunity.

“We are excited to be able to dramatically increase access to our services for so many more small businesses across the state.”

Wehe also talked with the city council about traditional services her office provides and how SBDC’s targets have changed over the years. For example, the small business target demographics in the past were women entrepreneurs. They are no longer a target because that target has been reached. There are many women in small business now.

Target demographics now include veterans, minorities and specialties such as science and bioscience businesses as well as businesses in the artistic arena.

SBDC also wants its staff to work with more existing businesses, Wehe explained.

She still works with new businesses but because the emphasis has shifted to existing businesses, the numbers of start-up businesses she assisted this year were not as high as last year.

Start-ups this year totaled 20, compared to 27 last year. As far as job creation, 2011 was the SLV SBDC’s best year. Wehe’s office is also very involved in job retention. For example, if she helped a business obtain a loan so it did not have to lay people off, those jobs that would have been cut are counted as jobs retained in her reporting.

Councilor Marcia Tuggle asked Wehe how she deals with potential business owners who do not have everything planned out when they come to see her but have some good ideas, and how she helps them fit the local market.

Wehe said it is all right if people are not totally prepared when they first come to see her, because she will give them homework.

She added she uses resources available locally to help guide people in matching their interests with the market. She will refer clients to other business experts as well, such as Randy Wright, executive director for the Alamosa County Economic Development Corp. and Alamosa County Chamber of Commerce.

She encourages people to conduct research into the market, as well.

“Sometimes you can have a good idea that the area doesn’t fit,” she said.

Tuggle said, “I think it’s a great service.”

Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers commended Wehe as well.

“You have just brought so much credibility,” she told her. “You don’t talk to people going into business without your name coming up.”

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