If you have always dreamed of owning your own business, you don't have to go it alone. The Small Business Administration is willing to offer a helping hand.
In the Tri-Cities, the SBA is as close as the Small Business Development Center, at 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Suite A, in Kennewick.
"The services are all free," said Calvin Goings, regional administrator for the SBA. "It's an example of your federal taxes at work. Unfortunately, the SBA is a well-kept secret."
The Development Center in Kennewick is supported by the SBA, Columbia Basin College and Tri-City Development Council.
"It's unusual to have all those resources in one place," Goings said. "It's one-stop shopping for small businesses. It's there to help small businesses thrive and prosper. All you have to do is reach out and grab."
The services offered by SBA are what Goings calls the three C's -- capital, contracting and counseling.
"Capital, helping small businesses get loans, is what everyone thinks of when they think of the SBA," he said. "But the other two are just as important."
An example of contracting, Goings said, "is Uncle Sam buys a lot of stuff from paper clips to jet planes every year to the tune of $100 billion per year. Our job, as the SBA, is to make sure 23 percent of the purchase orders, nationally, go to small businesses."
Counseling covers helping people with business and marketing plans, training, finding insurance and legal assistance, getting a business license, even protecting your intellectual property through copyrights, trademarks and patents.
"We offer everything from one hour web-based marketing classes to a nine-year mentoring program," Goings said. "All you need to do is pick up the phone and make an appointment."
Small businesses, Goings said, are the economic driver for the U.S. economy.
"Half of all American workers are employed by a small business," he said.
Goings defined a small business as one with fewer than 100 employees, with the vast majority having 12 or fewer.
"Small businesses created 65 percent of all the new jobs, nationally, in the U.S. in recent years. To turn the economy around they are critical," he said.
Which is why he is visiting communities in his region, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, promoting the services of the SBA.
To help even more Goings is organizing a mini-expo for sometime next spring to bring even more of the SBA's resources to the Tri-Cities. It will include mini-workshops, 30 minutes to an hour, on various, very specific, topics.
In the meantime, call the Kennewick Development Center at 735-6222 or go to http://sbdc.columbiabasin.edu.