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Free help for small businesses during emergencies, growth

By Staff | Mar 18, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Guest speaker Lois Knox, with the Small Business Development Center, provides facts and figures to assist with understanding the ins and outs of small business at the chamber's monthly luncheon.

With the latest worldwide emergency on everyone’s mind, the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce business luncheon on March 11 at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club addressed COVID-19 (coronavirus) indirectly during speaker talks.

Chamber President John Lai told members that because of the wealth of information out there already, the chamber would only be issuing bulletins that directly affect the local business community.

He concentrated, instead, on the strides that chamber advocacy efforts in Tallahassee helped achieve this past legislative session, but cautioned: “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas.”

The chamber pushed for continued funding for Visit Florida, which came through for another year with a $50 million budget. The advocacy committee will continue to back a long-term reauthorization and budget next session, along with continued support of water quality improvement measures such as those the legislature recently voted in favor of.

In illustrating the big picture of the Florida Small Business Development Center she helps lead at Florida Gulf Coast University, guest speaker Lois Knox honed in briefly on how she envisions COVID-19 impacting the state’s economy.

“If we can keep it low-key in Florida I think we’re going to benefit in the long run,” she said, due to cruise-ship and overseas travel scares.

“I believe the virus will have some access to a capital event that’s kept at a local level,” Knox predicted later as she talked about SBDC’s role in assisting with emergency loans following hurricanes, red tide and other catastrophes.

Nearly 90 percent of Florida’s workforce comes from small businesses, she said.

“Small businesses are big,” Knox, regional director for Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties, said.

That is why the SBDC is invested in helping small businesses succeed every step of the way, from conception to end game. Consultants offer free advice and training, with current emphasis on capital access, research and data resources, and growth acceleration – “understanding how to grow in a way you can handle it.”

“The coolest thing about Lois is that everyone I talk to who has met with her team has a story of how they helped them stay in business and grow,” Lai said. “SBDC consultants have walked the talk, so their assistance comes from a very real place.”

For more information about how SBDC can benefit small business plans, visit floridasbdc.org.