The experience was like trying to grab a small sip from a firehose at full blast. That is how officials at the Coconino Small Business Development Center at Coconino Community College describe the situation they faced with limited staff when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down business across the state.
Now, with the help of a $108,000 CARES Act grant, the Coconino SBDC will be adding another full-time business analyst to help businesses weather the pandemic.
In March, SBDC Director Gina Couillard and Business Analyst Amanda Hyde shifted into overdrive to help business owners understand the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program. Couillard conducted a series of web-based sessions walking business owners through the application process.
So far this year, the SBDC has had more than 25 training sessions and has helped 603 businesses from all over the state and beyond – a number that is more than double that from 2019. Additionally, the SBDC has provided counseling to more than 150 businesses throughout Coconino County.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult on small businesses,” said CCC Extended Learning Executive Director Kay Leum. “With the CARES Act grant funding for Small Business Development Centers across the country, Gina and her team will be able to provide services to Coconino County businesses with more resources, including staff.”
Leum added, “The tireless work that the Coconino SBDC has provided during the last six months displayed an excellence that was already in place but was highlighted when so many businesses needed the services the SBDC could provide.”
As a former business owner, Couillard recognizes the important role that small businesses have in the economy of Coconino County, and she understands the challenges and obstacles they face in the marketplace.
“Our team is committed to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 disaster and position themselves to thrive in the recovery that will follow,” she said.
In this time of unprecedented need in the county, businesses are focused on access to capital and experts to help them navigate the process. Couillard says the effects of the pandemic are becoming more dire and connecting businesses to resources is imperative.
Currently, applicants are being interviewed for a new business analyst position while the organization continues to seek out funding options to sustain its operations.
The mission of the Coconino County SBDC at CCC is to provide free, confidential counseling, training, online courses and resources for businesses throughout the Northern Arizona region. It is part of a national network of centers that work with businesses in every industry. FBN
By Larry Hendricks, FBN
For more information about the SBDC, visit coconinosbdc.com/.
Larry Hendricks is the senior public relations and marketing manager at Coconino Community College.