McDuffie County has joined the state's ranks of "Entrepreneur Friendly" communities, an official designation indicating the community is developing an environment to support small business and entrepreneurs. Ninety-two percent of McDuffie County businesses are classified as small businesses, with 19 or fewer employees.
"This is a great day for McDuffie County and our small businesses," said Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers. "We want to really use this designation. We want to be a resource for the business community. We need to be better as a chamber about attending to small businesses."
McDuffie County is the 34th Entrepreneur Friendly community in the state and the second in 2007 to be named Entrepreneur Friendly by the Georgia Department of Economic Development's Entrepreneur and Small Business Office. Nearby Burke County was certified in June 2006, and other counties in the region currently in the designation process include Lincoln, Warren, Hancock and Richmond.
"Homegrown businesses and entrepreneurs create quality jobs that are integral to ensuring prosperity and opportunity throughout Georgia," said Gov. Sonny Perdue in a press release. "By encouraging and supporting small businesses, we are investing in a stronger future for local communities and the state as a whole."
To earn the designation, McDuffie County completed the Entrepreneur-Friendly program with the assistance of GDEcD's regional representative Adela Kelley. The county analyzed its entrepreneurial and small business environment and developed strategies tailored for that environment, to help foster the growth of this critical business segment. McDuffie County also underwent a full-day assessment by a review team composed of GDEcD staff, representatives from the Small Business Development Center, Augusta Technical College, Department of Community Affairs and the OneGeorgia Authority.
The effort culminated Tuesday with an all-day session at the Thomson Depot. Mr. Powers joined several local small business owners in making presentations to a qualification committee.
"It certainly has been a pleasure to work in McDuffie County," Ms. Kelley said. "I've just been tickled to death with this community."
Qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners in McDuffie County are now eligible for customized market data, such as demographic and business information, to help give them a competitive edge.
The county is also eligible for an Entrepreneur-Friendly Implementation Fund (EFIF) grant to help implement specific, long-term programs that support entrepreneurs and small businesses. The grant must be matched 50 percent in dollars or in-kind value by the community.
"A couple of years ago our Chamber board started thinking about ways to be the community resource or information clearinghouse for start-ups and smaller companies hoping to sustain or grow their businesses," Mr. Powers said. "The Entrepreneur-Friendly program is a perfect vehicle to achieve that goal. We are hopeful that this program will continue to evolve and strengthen, allowing us to help our community businesses grow in the most effective way."