Small-business outreach center planned in Fulton

SUNY Oswego’s Small Business Development Center and its Watertown Regional Center plan to establish a temporary outreach office in Fulton to help displaced workers start new small businesses, thanks to a federal grant.

The $100,000 portable assistance grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will enable the Small Business Development Center to establish an e-commerce incubator in conjunction with a local real estate developer.

Larry Perras, senior small-business adviser for the SUNY Oswego unit, said the purpose of these highly competitive grants—only $588,000 was available to SBDCs nationally this year—is “to develop scalable programs in areas suffering economic hardships such as plant closures, natural disasters and so on.”

Fulton has lost more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs since 1995, according to the SBDC’s grant application.

“The plan is we’re going to open a temporary office in Fulton to assist displaced workers for up to six months, depending on demand,” Perras said.

The goal is to create a “portable” model of small-business assistance that can be implemented in other hard-hit communities around the region, he said.

Advice, workshops

An on-site business adviser will provide the displaced workers with advice and training on starting a small business.

Workshops will include the new course “What Business Should I Start?” It will feature a skills and interests assessment that can help point people to a business that “fits” and which can be commercialized.

“The target is individuals who have thought about it and would like to start a business, but haven’t really decided which one to take on,” Perras said.

The SBDC also plans to work with Lower Falls Management Co. of Fulton to establish an e-commerce center, complete with Internet-connected computers for training and startup. The center would recruit successful businesspeople to help with training, he said.

“I would be available to do something like that,” said Matt Dawson, owner of mydigitaldiscount.com of Oswego, a distributor of ultra-fast solid-state and flash drives. Two loans arranged through the SUNY Oswego SBDC have helped his online business.

Dawson said there are many pitfalls, but prospective owners of e-commerce ventures can succeed if they carefully analyze the market and find a niche that does not attempt to meet large competitors head-on.

“It’s tough to compete in mass markets,” he said. “Don’t try to go head-to-head with Best Buy, Newegg or Buy.com.”

Dawson said he values the financial advice he has received from Perras over the years since mydigitaldiscount.com launched in 2000.

Perras said the genesis of the idea for an e-commerce center was a discussion he had with a businessman who complained about being restricted in his marketing area by Lake Ontario.

“I told him, ‘Let’s not think that way,’” Perras said. “I tried to make the point to him that with e-commerce, his ability to market moves beyond that body of water.”

Besides Lower Falls Development and the Watertown Regional SBDC, SUNY Oswego’s Small Business Development Center is partnering with Fulton’s Community Development Agency and Operation Oswego County to open the temporary advisement center in Fulton.

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(Posted: Oct 27, 2011)

Tags: vibrant community, entrepreneurial