A small business tune-up listening session, sponsored by Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Center and the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, drew several local small business owners and entrepreneurs Oct. 3.
The session provided numerous resources for attendees while also giving them a chance to voice concerns and thoughts about further developing community and business in Syracuse.
KEDCO President George L. Robertson led the majority of the session; however, Syracuse Town Manager Henry DeJulia, Chamber Executive Director Tammy Cotton and Business Advisor Alan Steele with ISBDC also spoke. Across all four speakers, the theme was not only helping start-ups and new businesses but also making a difference for existing businesses.
“What do (existing businesses) really need?” Robertson asked. “What programs do they need? Do they know what is available?”
Robertson noted KEDCO has a small business committee, which focuses on providing support. There is also the Kosciusko Business Resource Center, TheKBRC.com, where small business owners and entrepreneurs will find a gold mine of resources from local and regional to federal — even tips on seizing international opportunities.
Steele relayed what ISBDC can do for business owners. “We have 350 to 400 clients over the course of a year from aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small businesses.”
He then noted they cover a wide variety of topics for their clients from training them on Quickbooks and effectively using marketing to creating business plans and exploring markets outside of the U.S. ISBDC also offers Small Biz U classes, which are done online.
Steele stated that working with ISBDC often doesn’t come with a cost. “We want to help (business owners) make informed decisions.”
“Small businesses are one of the toughest jobs,” said Robinson. “And in small business you’re all of it. There are a lot of resources in Indiana; a lot of businesses just don’t have time to find them.”
Over the course of the session, several concerns were voiced including Syracuse’s seasonal nature as a lake community, finding and keeping good employees, plus planning good social media marketing campaigns.
In regards to finding skilled employees, Robertson noted WorkOne can do a lot of testing at no cost to verify candidates’ skill sets while the state’s EARN program will reimburse businesses for having paid interns.
Wawasee High School’s internship program was also brought up with it being noted that business participating in the program are developing high school students’ skill sets. It was noted that with the rise of social media, communication skills are suffering in younger generation.
“Communication and the ability to work in teams (are declining),” Robertson said.
Syracuse’s future was also discussed with Syracuse Town Council President Bill Musser stating he would like to see an increase in Syracuse’s population and get kids to stay in the community. It was noted that housing is currently an issue in Syracuse.
According to Robertson, family housing and condos are growing the most with him suggesting Syracuse consider opening up development for housing that first-time buyers are looking for. He noted that individuals will often start in something more affordable like a condo before moving into their first house.