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MDA offers help for small businesses

Small business owners in Brookhaven facing financial hardship inthe current economy could benefit from several assistance programsand overall guidance available through the Mississippi DevelopmentAuthority.

Jack Curry, who heads up MDA’s Existing Industry and BusinessDivision, outlined some of his office’s programs Friday morning atthe Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly SmallBusiness Roundtable.

He said MDA could help small businesses with possible loans,market expansion advice and redesigning stores to increase curbsideretail. The authority’s advisement services are free to businessowners.

“We’re trying to help them think outside of the box, expandtheir sales into other new markets and cut their expenses,” Currysaid. “Sometimes throwing more money into it is not the answer ifit’s going to get them a great debt load when they don’t have thesales to make it up.”

Aside from a host of information, application assistancestrategic advice Curry’s division offers, small business owners canalso go through MDA for seminars and programs, including theMississippi Market, a two-day wholesale meeting; an Entrepreneur’sTool Kit containing guides and advice and an online program thatdetails upcoming jobs to member businesses and allows them to placebids.

Curry said the programs are designed to help small businessesalong through the current economy, where several financial criseshave made it difficult for them to obtain loans and operatingcapital.

“The biggest problem in this state I’ve seen over the years issmall businesses getting financing,” he said. “People in myposition are going to have to think outside the box to help peopleout. Credit card debt is starting to creep up a little bit, and Ithink that’s going to be the big challenge over the next two tothree years.”

Curry said many small business owners are still generating goodideas in the midst of the economic downturn but lack the ability tofinance.

“Even in normal times, people may not have the collateral to putup,” he said. “A lot of people think there might be 100 percentfinancing for starting a business, but there’s not. You have to putyour own equity and collateral into it. The business itself won’tstand for all of it.”

Despite the challenges, Curry believes the state’s smallbusinesses are holding their own. He said his office is receivingmore and more calls from businesses that need working capital to”get them over the hump.”

Curry stressed the importance of innovation in small businesses,as the forthcoming funds from the American Recovery andReinvestment Act of 2009 do not seem to be intended for bailing outowners.

“A lot of the things I’ve seen in there will not help smallbusinesses, I don’t believe,” he said.

Some parts of the stimulus package will be beneficial, however.Curry pointed to the approximately $45 million the stimulus isprojected to send to Mississippi for various forms of workforcetraining.

The state’s entrepreneurs may also benefit from less directprograms, Curry said, though much about the stimulus packageremains to be discovered.

“There’s a program in there for weatherization of houses,” hesaid. “That’s not creating jobs, but it may create a smallbusinesses that specializes in weatherizing a house. You can’t saythat’s not small business-related. We just don’t know.”