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Mike Maddock, General Manager
2006-03-03 / Business

Sanford deals blow to Small Business Chamber

Gov. rejects $350,000 plan for entrepreneurial and small business development

Contributed by SC Small Business

Chamber of

Commerce

Governor Mark Sanford, through his Department of Commerce, has rejected implementing a plan to help SC communities become more entrepreneurial and small business friendly even if the Legislature appropriated additional funds for that purpose. The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce offered to seek an additional $350,000 for Commerce for a community–based program modeled after a successful program in GA if the governor agreed to put the money toward the effort.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president of the Small Business Chamber. “We’ve hosted two meetings of economic development organizations, including the Governor’s Office and Commerce, to learn how the GA program works.  Every-body thinks it’s a good idea and that we can replicate it here.”

The Department of Commerce is asking for a budget increase of $14.6 million this year, including a $7 million “closing” fund for recruiting business to the state and $2.5 million in additional staff almost exclusively for industry–recruiting managers.

In 2003, GA’s Republican Governor, Sonny Perdue, instructed his Department of Economic Development to develop a plan for the state to put more emphasis on entrepreneurs and small businesses. One year later Georgia launched its Entrepreneur Friendly program without any new resources.  That community–based program celebrated its first highly successful year in November of last year.

“With minimal new resources our Department of Commerce can provide communities with the same type of hands–on structured support to grow their entrepreneurs and small businesses from the bottom up,” said Knapp. “We don’t have to pilot new programs. GA has already done that for us and is ready to hand us a blueprint to follow. All the governor has to do is say that he’d accept the additional money for such a statewide program if the Small Business Chamber secured it from the Legislature. We didn’t ask him to lift a finger or change any of his other worthwhile plans for commerce.”

The $350,000 for the program would fund five positions to cover the whole state.  These people would live in the areas they serve, a vital part of the program especially in rural communities. “The program could even be managed by a non– profit organization and the initial start–up money obtained from other sources,” said Knapp, “But the state should create the program by statute now and commit tax dollars for a consistent base of long–term funding.”

“This is such a small amount of money, simply scraps when compared to what the state spends on recruiting big business,” said Knapp, “Small businesses shouldnt have to beg the governor for scraps from the big business table.”

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