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Lopucki described FastTrac as a 10-week boot camp, where participants are linked to various resources and partners they need to develop their business strategies.
Dave Adams, CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League, said one certainty about small businesses is that they need capital. He also said that during the past 12 months, Michigan Credit Union small business loans have been up 17 percent, while other lenders have been pulling back. He said credit unions make good loans, and underwrite loans carefully.
“One thing is clear,” he said. “The partnership with SBTDC will help us assure that small businesses owners and entrepreneurs get the training and tools they need, and the business plans they need, so that when the go to a credit union they’re prepared. Credit unions want to lend. And I think community banks want to lend as well.”
Adams also said credit unions are locally owned, most are occupationally based, and they understand the importance of local jobs and supporting local businesses.
Small business owner Abe Valdez, principal consultant and founder of Network Infrastructure Consulting Services, said that going through the FastTrac program allowed him to be more focused and to get appropriate resources and tools.
Valdez described his company as an IT-based one-stop solution for business, and said he’s now working with business partners and service partners to provide holistic solutions.
Dana Thompson, University of Michigan law professor and a contributing author to the book “Building Healthy Communities: A Guide to Community Economic Development for Advocates, Lawyers and Policymakers,” published by the American Bar Association, teaches small business in the university’s Urban Communities Clinic.
“I think it is very significant that the governor is giving attention to small businesses to strengthen and diversify Michigan’s economy,” Thompson said. “Where Michigan’s economy currently is, there is no second thought that small businesses must get the support they need to revive the state economy.”
Thompson urged state leaders to boost resources for small businesses if they are to see any growth in the economic downturn.
“All small businesses, especially first stage companies, desperately need access to numerous resources, including capital, business planning and legal advice,” Thompson said. “On all levels there has to be a focused strategy to direct resources to organizations that are turning the page on the state’s 20th century economy that is battling with the demands of globalization.”
Renee Coulter, a Livonia-based attorney and CPA, had been working for a large firm when she was let go in Oct. 2008. She decided to call a client and get that client to stay with her. The client did, and for the next six months she provided full service to that client.
She said the FastTrac NewVenture program helped her get better organized. Prior to coming to TechTown, her business plan was handwritten on sheets of loose leaf paper.
She described her instructors as “wonderful” and said she’s gained some of her fellow classmates as clients. She also said that without TechTown she wouldn’t be getting as many clients as she now has.
Coulter presently has about 60 clients and said she’s supportive of other businesses, including a tech company and a print shop.
The owner of the tech company, Clayton Hornbuckle, attended the roundtable. His company, Proxy Communications, is a networking integration firm he runs with his wife.
Hornbuckle said he contracts with people who need network integration, and hardware/software installation and trouble shooting, no matter where the workplace is located.
He pointed out that people’s workplaces have changed over the last several years. People are starting businesses in their homes, and/or running them from small offices or on road, but they still need tech support help without paying outrageous hourly rates.
Hornbuckle said he plans to take the FastTrac program.
For more information about TechTown, visit www.techtownwsu.org.
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