A federal grant will allow Ohio Northern University to get experience for its own students and help small businesses in a four-county area grow.
The school received $92,826 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program to promote small-business growth in Allen, Hancock, Hardin and Wyandot counties.
"The main focus and target is to help people grow their business with the end goal of creating jobs in the four counties," said Tammy Schakett, assistant professor of entrepreneurship.
The funds will help create an entrepreneurship center and fund a part-time director and administrative assistant. The program will offer free one-on-one counseling, classes and workshops beginning in the fall. Schakett said topics could include writing business plans, marketing a small business, bookkeeping, computer literacy, customer service, and how to save for retirement while self-employed. Participants can combine classes to obtain a certificate of completion.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced the award Tuesday. Earlier this year, he introduced the The Business Incubator Promotion Act to help make more Ohio communities eligible to receive funds that support business incubators through the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
"Thanks to these federal resources, small businesses throughout northwest Ohio will have a better shot at creating new opportunities and jobs in small towns and rural areas," Brown said. "Small businesses are essential to our economy, and through this award, local communities and their residents can lead the way in rural economic development."
The grant is designed to assist small businesses and people wanting to start a business in rural areas. Existing businesses must employ fewer than 50 people and have gross sales less than $1 million. The grant's goal is to assist 20 businesses and create 12 jobs. Schakett said that won't be difficult and that she is already getting inquiries about the program.
Starting and growing a business in a rural area can be challenging, Schakett said. Resources, technical support and lending possibilities aren't as available as in larger cities. The center plans to work with chamber of commerce and economic development officials in the four counties.
"To develop a list of resources in all these counties, so we can become a one-stop place where they can get all of this information," she said.
A benefit to ONU is that its senior business management and master's accounting students will do the counseling. Schakett often gets requests from students wanting contact with area entrepreneurs.
"They can gain experience that they would not get if they went to work for a large corporation," she said. "They want to be able to have that experience and see what the entrepreneurs are doing, so this is a really hands-on way to get that contact and experience."
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