Published August 21, 2012
Volume 20, Number 8

East Bay EDA Symposium on September 18 to Help Small Businesses   

Small business plays a critical role as an engine of growth in the East Bay economy. According to a recent report from the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (East Bay EDA), two-thirds of the region’s firms have just one to two employees. Firms with 100 or fewer employees created two-thirds of the East Bay jobs. The vast majority (93.6 percent) of East Bay jobs originate in companies that start and grow locally, as compared to those that relocate here.

Limited access to credit, however, can hinder small business success. Aiming to increase access to capital and financing, a group of local experts--East Bay EDA Executive Director Karen Engel; Vice Chair Jim Foley, who is also Regional President, Greater Bay Region for Wells Fargo; and Jose Corona, Executive Director, Inner City Advisors (ICA)—joined forces to launch the Small Business Initiative.

The Initiative begins with a series of four Symposiums that match East Bay resources with businesses in four different stages of development (startup, young, growing and mature). Follow-up includes outreach from the Small Business Development Centers of both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties and subsequent contact from the ICA to assess the impact for the participating businesses. The Initiative is supported by a dedicated website that includes resource information and video from the Symposiums to assist businesses that were unable to attend.

According to Engel, the East Bay region boasts a plethora of free resources for small business owners. “The problem is that most small business owners who need help simply don’t know where to start,” she says. “Our initiative strives to make those connections.” For example, Symposium attendees can make contact with East Bay EDA members who have their pulse on the regional economy—professionals like bankers, economic development officials, and service providers--thus gaining invaluable assistance in financing, business planning, marketing, human resources, and legal support.

So far this year, East Bay EDA has held two such gatherings. The first, in Antioch, had 98 attendees. The Berkeley Symposium, at the end of July, attracted over 350 businesses and resource representatives. The third is scheduled for Danville, on September 18, at the Veterans Memorial Building, and the last will be in Fremont in November. Rotating the venues allows the organization to delve into the specific challenges and issues of each sub-region, making the content even more pertinent.

“One of the main things we’re striving for is interpersonal connectivity,” remarks East Bay EDA Deputy Director Scott B. Peterson. On hand will be “lots of resource providers,” including representatives of the innovative new financing options like microloans, so attendees will have plenty of time during the three-hour session to network and meet people who can make a difference to them.

“The collaboration of a variety of service providers and resource agencies is really what makes this so successful,” Peterson points out.

Additional support for the Initiative is provided by the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board, the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. There is no charge to attend a Symposium. For more information or to register as a participant or a resource partner, go to www.ebsmallbusiness.com.


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