NORTH ADAMS -- Small business owners in Northern Berkshire have a new resource to turn to when they need help with finances, marketing strategies, planning or networking skills.
Economic Resiliency in the Northern Tier, a new business assistance and capacity building program being offered by the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC), Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, aims to strengthen and grow small businesses in Franklin and northern Berkshire counties by providing technical assistance and business loan support services.
"The main thing we want to do is to provide access to businesses and start-ups and help them access financing," FCCDC Executive Director John Waite said during the program's launch at MediTerra Restaurant on Friday. "The idea is to get more technical assistance to more businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of our community. They spur vitality. We really want to make sure that we're building up capacity in our counties. We also want to forge public and private sector collaborations."
Funded by a $284,311 Disaster Relief Opportunity Grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and a 25 percent match from the FCCDC, the 18-month project will offer information sessions for business owners in the city on the second Wednesday of each month and will have two business specialists, one for each county, available to provide services. The first information session for Northern Berkshire will be held at North Adams City Hall, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., on Sept. 11.
"Small business owners can expect to talk with a counselor about business planning, such as: long-term business plans; marketing; evaluating financial statements; learning how to create a cash flow and figuring out how to network with other business owners they share customers with but aren't competitors with," Amy Shapiro, business development director for the FCCDC, said.
Although the original intent of the federal grant funding was to help businesses affected by Tropical Storm Irene, the program has been expanded to include all small businesses, as a way to help make them more resilient should another disaster strike.
"When Tropical Storm Irene hit, I drove into Shelburne Falls and Buckland and all the towns that had been hit. I remember in Buckland, that the quilt shop had literally floated down the street and the West End Pub was full of mud. It was a disaster," said state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, whose district encompasses towns in both counties. "This grant and this project are one of the ways we're going to be prepared should another storm like that happen. It's going to help businesses that are already recovering. If you go to Shelburne Falls, it's beautiful again. It is thriving again. But, we've got to make sure that it's always prepared in case another disaster hits, so we're not put behind the eight ball again."
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, also applauded the program, which she believes is much needed by the business community.
"As a former small business manager, I know how tough it is to do business in our area, and I know the technical assistance coming over with this initiative will be able to help everybody who has a small business in our area," she said.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright described the collaborative effort between local, state and federal organizations to bring about the grant funding as "government at its best."
"This provides a great deal of support to our business community," he said. "You can have the best cook in the world ... but without the skills that are necessary to run that business; without people who can help them with a business model and business plan and then provide continued help and support and then capital when it is necessary -- that business can still fail."
For more information, contact Shapiro by calling 413-774-7204, ext. 107, or by emailing email@example.com.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email