This evening I went to the first of several public information meetings for small business trying to participate in the Go Oregon! program. Don’t know what I am talking about? Well, you are not alone.
I consider myself to be more web-savvy than the average bear, and I know I am much more comfortable wading through legislation and government websites than most people (a useful skill, but one that is guaranteed to never make you rich or famous). This afternoon, I wanted to confirm the meeting time and see in what building the event was to be held. I then spent approximately 30 minutes searching my email, running several google searches and poring through the Small Business Administration site with a fine tooth comb. I eventually found it (although the announcement did not specify a building after all) and headed west to the Rock Creek campus of PCC.
I have to admit, given the difficulty I had in confirming the event, I was surprised at the number of people there and even more shocked to learn that there had been 400 people at the morning session. I asked some of the folks around me how they had heard about the event. Almost all of them had accessed some services associated with the SBA in the past and received announcements in the mail. The other folks I spoke to said they had heard about it from fellow business-people. No one mentioned a web site.
The entire event was structured around showing us the landing pages of the Oregon University System, Portland Community College, City of Portland’s and ORPIN (the state’s system) procurement pages. Each presenter reminded everyone that with the timeline is so short and the actual pool of money available so uncertain, they should be sure to check all of these sites on a daily basis. As they were only focusing in the stimulus money released through SB 338, there was no discussion of how to keep an eye on opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Let me reiterate a key point I would like to make: small business owners were instructed to check multiple web sites daily in order to keep tabs on opportunities as they arise (all of the sites lack RSS feeds, although you can subscribe to email updates on some of the sites). That is a lot to ask of people who are already working really hard just to stay in business. But, I also need to say in defense of these jurisdictions that they have been facing decreasing budgets and increasing needs for over a decade, and setting up RSS feeds (though simple) just doesn’t rise to the forefront in their list of priorities right now.
Small businesses are the lifesblood of our city. According to the Portland Development Commission’s draft Economic Development Strategy, 90% of businesses in Portland are small businesses and 3/4 of employees in this city work for small businesses
I would like to to make an offer to you, my readers. I will continue to post links and information about both state and federal stimulus opportunities as I learn about them so that there will be at least one one-stop resource page for the information Portland’s small businesses need. In exchange, I ask that when you learn about an opportunity or resource that you do not yet see on this blog, please add it to the comments.
I love Portland because Portland is a city that values community. Please share the link to this blog with your fellow-business-owners, neighbors, family and friends. I want to help local businesses prosper in this challenging time. Local business owners and employees are part of our community, and I strongly believe that if we work together, we can weather this storm.