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Log in The Six-County SBDC Coalition is seeking a permanent home to train local entrepreneurs, a joint effort to establish a regional Small Business Development Center, one affiliated with UT Tyler’s Longview University Center and managed by its School of Business. The coalition represents counties, cities, economic development organizations and chambers of commerce, working to retain SBDC services where they’ve historically been offered to fuel entrepreneurship in Gregg County, Harrison County, Panola County, Rusk County, Upshur County and Marion County. In a joint news conference Thursday morning at UT Tyler’s Longview University Center, coalition representatives outlined the advantages that will come from a centrally-located small business support operation in Longview. The coalition members are joining together to show support for the Small Business Development Center, Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said, and for the services historically operated by Kilgore College to be retained in the same region, now through UT Tyler’s Longview center. “Our group is a true collaboration of all of the communities in the six-county region served by the SBDC,” Stoudt said. “All six county judges, as well as 14 mayors and six chambers and economic development councils support operating the SBDC in Longview. “Further, we have the support of our congressman, our state senator and state representatives from this region. And, perhaps most telling, Dr. Brenda Kays, the president of Kilgore College where this SBDC has historically flourished, also supports locating the SBDC in Longview.” Robbie Shoults of Bear Creek Smokehouse in Marshall praised the efforts of the SBDC at Kilgore College under former director Brad Bunt. Shoults said he’s eager to the same support thriving again in Longview. “We just depended on the SBDC for all types of resources,” Shoults said, from marketing and banking advice to promotion: he credits Bunt’s guidance at the SBDC for helping Bear Creek Smokehouse gain national recognition. “There’s just a lot of things he did for us. We sure want them back over this way. There’s just a huge void that hasn’t been filled.” Currently, SBDC services for the six-county area are being managed, on an interim basis, by Tyler Junior College. Grouping those counties with the college’s existing base, the TJC-SBDC has been stretched to cover a 13-county region. “TJC stepped up to take on the additional workload,” said coalition member Amanda Nobles, executive director of Kilgore Economic Development Corporation. “We’re grateful they’ve taken on the extra work in the interim, and we know a long-term solution is necessary so the small businesses in our limited service area can get the assistance they need.” A Small Business Development Center is critical to economic development, Nobles added, offering training and advice for entrepreneurs, helping them build a solid foundation that ensures long-term contributions to their home city, county and the region as a whole. Karl Bryson of Kilgore’s DrillTools also underscored the value of a local, focused SBDC. “We founded our company seven years ago and we expereienced a rapid growth rate over that time,” he said, bolstered by SBDC support: “They were fast, efficient and very professional. It was efficient, time-wise to our needs…to have them close by with us. That will help them be that much more efficient, like what we experienced.” Following Tyler Junior College’s interim management of SBDC services in the Longview office, the 6-County SBDC Coalition and its supporters – elected officials and business leaders – have recruited UT Tyler’s School of Business to shoulder the six-counties’ long-term needs and found willing partners. “It’s important to our coalition and, in particular, to our small businesses that these six counties can be identified as a closely-defined SBDC district,” Nobles said. Gathered from throughout the six-counties historically served by the SBDC through Kilgore College, all the coalition members are coming together with a common vision, Stoudt added. “We recognize the importance of operating the services for our counties within our counties,” he said. “We need our SBDC to be led by folks who live by us, shop with us and raise their families with us. That is the only way they will understand the needs of our aspiring entrepreneurs.” According to Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor, the six-county region has been fortunate in the past to have one of the top performing SBDC’s in the nation – the Kilgore College SBDC won nine national awards across several years, including Small Business Development Center of the Year in 2016. “This success is not seen in any other area SBDCs, and it is imperative for us to retain the SBDC in our region if we are going to continue to receive outstanding services for our residents,” he said. “There is really no substitute for having a physical presence in the service area if our SBDC is going to be successful.” Taylor noted many of his constituents in Harrison County are closer to Louisiana than they are to the next Texas county. “Locating the SBDC in a region outside of the SBDC’s service area will make it practically unusable for my county – and based on our conversations, for many others, as well,” Taylor said. “We came here as a group today to communicate how strongly we believe that the future success of our entrepreneurs depends on having our SBDC affiliated with UT Tyler in Longview.” Other items that may interest you Browse the archive Find us on Facebook Read more here…

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