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Posted on 02/06/13

SBC Packs Powerful Economic Punch

There is a powerhouse resource for local businesses and many do not know it exists.  It’s odd, really, because it packs such a positive punch in the local economy.


Over the past three years, local business leaders who have used its services and sought its counsel, an documented average of 300 one-on-one hours per year, have reported total sales increases of $29 million.  Annually, it averages retaining or creating 105 jobs in Rockingham County which impacts local payrolls every year by more than $6 million.  Last year alone, it served over 100 individual clients.


So, who is it?  Not surprisingly, it’s the Small Business Center located in the Bishopric Lifelong Learning Center on the campus of Rockingham Community College.  It has two employees with years of business experience.  They have been business owners themselves.


More important than the experience they bring to the job is the fact that they are an arm of the powerful Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal program recognized at the highest levels as the lifeblood of American business.  Its administrator is a member of the U.S. President’s cabinet and a key member of the President’s economic leadership team.  Its charge, and the charge of all its centers, is to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business.


Small Business Centers like the one housed on the second floor of RCCs Bishopric Lifelong Learning Center, are part of a statewide network of more than 60 centers.  Their existence is mirrored throughout the nation.  They are all plugged into and essential parts of the hubs that drive local economies.


In North Carolina, Small Business Centers throughout the state are tied directly to North Carolina’s public university and community college systems.  This means a wealth of information is available at the fingertip of every current and aspiring entrepreneur; information based on historical facts and figures, latest trends and techniques, and current laws and regulations.  Every angle of business is covered:  an important fact for North Carolina entrepreneurs, 97 percent of whom operate small businesses.


According to the latest data, the Rockingham Community College Small Business Center, together with its sister centers throughout the state, provide services to over 70,000 individuals annually.  On average they create/retain approximately 3,500 jobs per year. 


Job creation is part of series of events between the SBC personnel and entrepreneurs.  At the Small Business Center at Rockingham Community College, those events include one-on-one counseling, weekly educational seminars ranked highly by attendees, a successful GATE (Growing America Through Entrepreneurship) program and How to Start/Stay in Business course, loan assistance and more.

The documented success of the Small Business Center on the Rockingham Community College campus earned it a Center of Excellence Award by the State Board of Community Colleges.  In June 2012, the award was accepted in Raleigh by the center’s director, Cathy Wheeler.  Its other employee, GATE counselor Debi Joyce, recently became one of only four regional GATE counselors in the state.  Her GATE program was so successful it drew the attention of federal Project Gate representatives who came to the campus to observe her in action and was featured in a “Best Practices Sharing” session attended by representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor.


The power of this effective Small Business Center at RCC has produced positive and powerful results in Rockingham County for decades.  Its impact on local lives and local small businesses – from farmers to craftsmen to restaurateurs to manufacturers – continues to be far reaching.


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