The Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads, Inc. (SBDC), an affiliate of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, is hard at work providing management counseling, information, technical assistance, education, and training to small businesses in the region’s 18 cities and counties. In today’s difficult economy as many businesses struggle, the efforts of the SBDC are needed now more than ever.
In June, the International Paper Plant in Franklin closed its doors. The SBDC was and continues to be engaged in efforts to help the more than 1,500 workers and surrounding communities impacted. This spring, the SBDC received a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, Inc., in the amount of $23,000 for its Small Business Recovery program. The grant money has been used to provide resources to current small business owners and potential new small businesses. The SBDC has provided a series of seven “e-books” which can be accessed from the SBDC website. In addition, the SBDC has conducted a series of Profit Mastery courses for the area’s small business owners. The SBDC partnered with the Virginia Electronic Commerce Technology Center to conduct a series of e-commerce related courses to increase awareness of ways to expand customer outreach beyond the local area.
Jim Carroll, Vice President for Small Business, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director, SBDC, said, “Even though International Paper is closed, there is still work to be done. The effects will be felt for years.”
In June, the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads (SBDC) arranged for businesses in Franklin affected by the closure of the International Paper Plant to receive free counseling through the Old Dominion University School of Business. ODU graduate students continue to volunteer their time and offer confidential business counseling. The SBDC worked closely with representatives from Isle of Wight Economic Development, Franklin Southampton County Economic Development, and the Downtown Franklin Association to coordinate these efforts.
On August 5, Western Refining Inc. announced it would immediately cease oil refining operations at its Yorktown, Va. plant, due to poor profit margins. The move will eliminate 230 jobs and Jim Noel, York County's economic development director, said about 100 contract employees will also be affected. Western Refining Inc. was one of the largest employers in York County. The SBDC is working with the Department of Economic Development to offer small business training courses to those who have been impacted by this closure.
Upon the August 9 announcement recommending the closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), located in Norfolk and Suffolk, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and several other local organizations sprung into action to fight this possibility and safeguard our economic health. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission has released a series of economic impact briefs, which have noted, among other things, that jobs at and connected to JFCOM number 10,800 and represent an estimated sum of $600 million in personal, taxable income in our region. On September 1, Jim Carroll attended the Suffolk City Council meeting and provided insight into how the SBDC would organize its efforts if JFCOM closes. This briefing provided an overview of just how the Center would respond, both for those who become unemployed due to the closure but also for the small business community surrounding the headquarters.