Chamber President Bob Cantler, left, and Gabe Gounaris, the chamber’s director of membership and business development, make a presentation to Washington County’s Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee on a program to give technical assistance to small businesses.
The Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County Chamber of Commerce is launching a program to provide technical assistance to small businesses and to entrepreneurs who are looking to start one.
Bob Cantler, the chamber’s president and CEO, told members of Washington County’s Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee last week he hopes the County Commission will agree to partner with his organization in the endeavor. Cantler is asking the county for a one-time contribution of $200,000 to help establish the financial foundation for the business development program.
The chamber’s other partners in the development program include its business members, the East Tennessee Sate University College of Business and Technology and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.
Cantler said Washington County’s contribution to the program could come from its remaining American Recovery Plan Act funds. He said the county’s donation will serve as seed money to help the chamber set guidelines for obtaining additional funds from area lending institutions, the Appalachian Regional Commission and state grants.
He said the county’s financial contribution will allow the chamber to offer support and technical assistance to small and startup businesses in Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County. To meet that goal, a development team will visit area businesses to determine the types of technical services that should be provided to address the current economic environment.
Cantler said the chamber is in a “dynamic phase” of developing the small business program, which he said will help keep “Washington County in a healthy position” as the economic leader of the region.
He said the goal of the chamber’s development program is to “help small businesses get to the next level.” The chamber president said the program will offer “enriched technical assistance” to businesses free of charge.
Those services include access to the Chamber’s Co.Starters, which is a 10-week program that Cantler said allows an entrepreneur to “walk in with a concept for a new business and walk out with a firm business plan to take to a bank for financing.”
The program also includes a mentoring service that helps new business owners gain valuable knowledge of the local business climate from experienced chamber members.
Cantler said the chamber program will also help new business owners with record keeping, sales tax accounting and learning best business practices.
“I think this is a great idea,” Commission Lewis Wexler told his colleagues before the CIA Committee voted Thursday to send the chamber’s request to the county’s ARPA Committee for additional review.
CIA Chairman Larry England said many new business owners are in need of sound technical assistance.
“It’s often a situation of not knowing that you don’t know what you need to know,” he said.