Video conferencing brings LBCC business help to SH

Sweet Home residents have had access to Linn-Benton Community College’s Small Business Development Center for nearly 30 years, but they always had to travel to Lebanon or beyond to do so.

Not any more.

New video conferencing equipment installed in the last month at LBCC’s Sweet Home Center brings the SBDC’s offerings to local residents, closer to home.

Alan Fudge, director of the program, demonstrated the system Thursday evening to a group of local business people,

including Chamber of Commerce Manager Andrea Culy and SHEDG Economic Development Director Brian Hoffman.

Fudge said that LBCC is the fifth of the 19 SBDC locations around the state get the video conferencing technology.

“This is a big deal for Sweet Home,” he said. The equipment in a secure room at the college’s Sweet Home Center uses the Internet to communicate via a camera, microphone/speaker unit and a video screen. Fudge’s teenage son Drummond sat in Fudge’s office at LBCC in Albany and talked with the group in Sweet Home, even playing a couple games of tic-tac-toe on Fudge’s whiteboard there.

Fudge said the system will allow him and other advisers from the SBDC to meet with Sweet Home business people without a time-consuming trip to or from Albany.

Services offered by SBDC, a federally funded program founded through the Small Business Administration, include assistance in developing business and financial plans, accessing capital, marketing, bookkeeping and taxes, management and technology.

Fudge stressed that SBDC staffers only advise participating business operators; they don’t provide consultation services. But they do it for free, though the center also offers classes that may require a small tuition payment.

Fudge said that, in return for the free advising, the SBDC asks for feedback and data from businesses, which is kept confidential, but is included in a general report that tells Congress how much money is being made by businesses supported by the Samll Business Administration.

Business advisers for the SBDC include people with backgrounds ranging from agriculture to medical offices, construction to retail and service businesses.

Classes include the year-long Small Business Management Program and the Building your Business program, which is a second year offered to those who have completed the first. There are also individual classes in Quickbooks, construction contractor education, tax preparation seminars and the Linn-Benton Microbusiness Program, which is offered for people wanting to start a business or build an existing one.

“The whole goal of that class is you come out of there with some sort of business plan,” Fudge said.

He said he is interested in possibly offering classes in Sweet Home, if there is sufficient demand for them, and he wants business owners to take advantage of the counseling opportunities made possible by the new equipment.

“We haven’t been here as much as I’ve wanted to be here,” Fudge said.

Culy said she is “excited” about the services the equipment can deliver and she said interest from local residents will determine how it will be used.

“We need really need to have interest from businesses to provide these,” she said.

As long as there’s interest, we can have a lot. If not, people still have to travel to Albany.

“We need to find out what people want and we can deliver it.”

develop survey, see what businesses want. We need to find out what people want and we can deliver it.