Black Belt Action Commission discusses small businesses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Representatives from several counties in the Black Belt converged at Rooster Hall Tuesday to discuss ways their respective organizations can help grow small businesses.

Phyllis Kennedy, chairwoman of the Small Business Committee of the Black Belt Action Commission began the presentation with the charge that the Black Belt has potential to grow if organizations can simply pool their resources and reach out to one another, specifically in the area of agriculture.

Representatives from Wilcox, Perry, Choctaw, Sumter and Marengo Counties were present to discuss their specific challenges and needs.

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Also present were Alabama Cooperative Extension Coordinators from Black Belt counties, and representatives from the Small Business Administration, the division of Farm Services, National Resource Conservation Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Roderick Perkins with the Small Business Administration explained that his organization assists in guaranteeing loans for small businesses. There are several satellite offices throughout the state, he said, but there has yet to be an office established directly in the Black Belt.

One reason there is no office in the Black Belt is that their centers are usually affiliated with four-year universities. The closest center is located on the campus of University of West Alabama and is directed by Donald Mills.

In addition to information about the different organizations, the meeting was a time to plan upcoming events. The most recent event for the BBAC was a seminar on how to run a bed and breakfast. Kennedy said their next project will likely be a seminar on how to get non-traditional businesses up and running.

The Black Belt Action Commission is a group organized by Gov. Bob Riley in 2004 that has 13 subcommittees on different areas of interest: Agriculture, Communications, Community Development, Cultural and Youth, Education, Families, Health, Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Marketing and Tourism, Skills Training, Small Business and Transportation.

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