Wednesday, May 21, 2008

100th Georgia community named Entrepreneur Friendly

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue announced April 25, 2008 that with the addition of Putnam County, Georgia’s Entrepreneur Friendly program has now welcomed 100 communities.

“I am proud that the Entrepreneur Friendly program has embraced such a wide swath of Georgia communities,” said Gov. Perdue. “The participants have worked hard to become receptive and supportive to small businesses and entrepreneurs. As our state continues to grow and prosper, fostering this important business segment remains one of my chief goals.”

Four other communities are being designated Entrepreneur Friendly during National Small Business Week, including Catoosa, Dawson, Jefferson and Mitchell. National Small Business Week, held April 21-25, is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Governor Perdue created the Entrepreneur Friendly program in 2004 to enable Georgia’s communities to strategically develop an environment in which entrepreneurs and small businesses can flourish. Ninety-two percent of Putnam County’s 741 businesses are considered small businesses.

“Coming from a rural community, we’ve always known how important small businesses are to the overall economy of Putnam County,” said Roddie Anne Blackwell, president, Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce. “Last year Putnam County celebrated its bicentennial and this year Eatonton will, so we were especially thrilled to know that we were the 100th community to reach its designation as ‘Entrepreneur Friendly.’”

To earn the designation, Putnam County completed the Entrepreneur Friendly program with the assistance of GDEcD’s regional representative Ryan Thornton. The county analyzed its entrepreneurial and small business environment and developed strategies to help foster the growth of this critical business segment.

Putnam County also underwent a full-day assessment by a review team composed of GDEcD staff and representatives from Department of Community Affairs, Small Business Development Center, Georgia Tech, and Georgia REAL.

Qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners in Putnam County are now eligible for customized market data, such as demographic and business information, to help give them a competitive edge.

The county is also eligible for an Entrepreneur-Friendly Implementation Fund (EFIF) grant to help it implement specific, long-term programs that support their entrepreneurs and small businesses. The grant must be matched 50 percent in dollars or in-kind value by the community.

Entrepreneurs located in Entrepreneur Friendly communities enjoy decided advantages. Counties typically establish mechanisms to discover and cultivate entrepreneur growth, such as the Professional Businesses Expo in Pickens County to tout local resources and provide mentoring, a “Buy Local” program in Brooks County and involving students in an adult leadership class in Crisp County.

“These are just some of the innovative ways our Entrepreneur Friendly counties have implemented the program,” said Heidi Green, chairman of the Georgia Entrepreneur and Small Business Coordinating Network and GDEcD’s deputy commissioner for Global Commerce. “The success of our small businesses is the greatest foundation for Georgia’s economic strength.”

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