Published October 18, 2011
Volume 19, Number 10

Need Business Help? The Alameda County Small Business Development Center Has Answers

The Alameda County Small Business Development Center (ACSBDC) is an invaluable—but often overlooked—resource for small businesses. An acknowledgement of the critical role small business plays in economic development, it is largely funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Like its 1,100 counterparts around the country, the Alameda County agency offers no- or low-cost assistance from professionals representing a broad variety of subject matter expertise.

“In today’s marketplace companies are all stretched for resources,” observes Rick Ohlrich, ACSBDC Director. “We help people write business plans, craft investor pitches or go-to-market strategies, secure loans, and address any type of business question you can imagine.

“Whether you are an entrepreneur looking for a roadmap to start your business, a business owner ready to take the next step in your company’s success, or a business that needs to rethink your direction in light of the current economic conditions, the SBDC can help,” Ohlrich adds.

Much of the agency’s assistance comes in the form of business seminars on topics ranging from e-commerce and web marketing to accessing capital and legal and business issues. A team of counselors, most of whom have advanced business degrees from top schools and decades of work experience, also offers one-on-one help to clients with diverse business challenges.

One of the recurring requests for help Ohlrich has noted lately is “access to capital in today’s market.” Despite the lending crunch, there are answers, he reports. “We’ve been pretty successful this year helping folks in the microloan area, typically in the range of $50,000.” No one business type appears to dominate. “Lenders apply the typical criteria when they look to provide loans, so it is not contingent on a particular industry or area.” 

Over the past two years. SBDC has worked one-on-one with almost 700 Alameda County small businesses. Several of its success stories are described on its website, www.acsbdc.org, which also features a link to a request for services, accessed by selecting the large red button. An intake counselor will reply by phone in a matter of days.

“The first cut is ascertaining whether we are the right place,” explains Ohlrich. “If we are the resource, we match clients with the best available person on staff to address their questions. We have specialists in retail, restaurants, construction, and procurement, so from an industry standpoint, there may be a particular person the client wants to meet with.”

With a robust schedule of technology-focused seminars for 2012, ACSBDC is about to raise its profile in the Tri-Valley, thanks to support from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the i-GATE incubator. From now until the end of the year, it conducts workshops every Wednesday at the i-GATE facility at 7693 Longard Road in Livermore. Topics range from Search Engine Optimization (October 26) to Small Business Innovative Research Grants (November 2) to Cloud Computing (December 14). The agency also hosts online webinars and classes like Bookkeeping and an Intro to QuickBooks. A complete list of upcoming events can be found on the ACSBDC website.

“The greatest challenge we have is making sure people know we exist,” Ohlrich notes. “You are paying for us with your taxes, so there is nothing to lose by trying us out to see if we can help.”


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