Business

Here’s why new home for small business center is good for Merced, officials say

Merced residents Kaitlin Hanshew, 22, left, and Tori Rowe, 21, right, look at a wall of hats while shopping at Envy Fine Clothing located at 3564 G Street, during Small Business Saturday in Merced, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.
Merced residents Kaitlin Hanshew, 22, left, and Tori Rowe, 21, right, look at a wall of hats while shopping at Envy Fine Clothing located at 3564 G Street, during Small Business Saturday in Merced, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Merced is now home to the headquarters for an organization that provides consulting, training and other resources for small business owners throughout the Central San Joaquin Valley, according to officials.

In an attempt to expand its Merced presence, according to leaders, the Small Business Development Center Network moved its lead office from Fresno to downtown Merced in October. The center, which is also connected to UC Merced, nurtures small businesses.

The office has dozens of consultants and gives small-business owners — and people who want to start a small business — professional advice from experts in 14 counties, according to a news release.

The training, workshops and consultations to business owners is free from the Central California arm of the network, which has been around since 2003. The association says its efforts have helped create and retain more than 10,000 jobs, and create more than $435 million in loans and equity.

The network takes pride in the advice it gives to small business, according to Kurt Clark, the executive director of the association in this region. He previously served 15 years as director of the Valley Sierra branch of the association in Modesto.

“Like other cities in our region, Merced is home to many mission-driven small businesses and burgeoning venture start-ups,” he said in a statement. “We’re proud to give them access to the consulting, training and services they need to help them grow and succeed.”

Small Business Development Centers receive funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. A small business is generally any firm with 500 or fewer employees and no more than $21.5 million in revenues, according to parameters set by the Small Business Administration.

The Central California network provides services to Merced, San Luis Obispo, San Benito, Monterey, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Tulare, Kern, Mono and Inyo counties.

UC Merced hosts the network. Making Merced the new home for the center provides potential benefits for the area, according to Sam Traina, the vice chancellor for Research and Economic Development at the UC Merced. He praised Clark as well.

“We are particularly pleased to have Kurt (Clark) in the role as the new executive director of the regional SBDC network,” he said in a statement. “He has an incredible knowledge of the region. I am confident he will increase the impact of the SBDC throughout Central California.”

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