April 30, 2009

Business center gets Harvest funds

The Harvest Foundation has awarded the Southside Business Technology Center (SBTC) $375,000 over three years, in part to create an emergency fund for employers struggling with the recession.

The center, located in the West Piedmont Business Development Center, 22 E. Church St., provides consulting services to existing and emerging companies in Martinsville-Henry County. It serves 45 companies a year, according to a release from Harvest and the center.

“The consulting services provided by SBTC help companies to have a complete and objective understanding of their internal operations and external environment, resulting in step-by-step approaches to increase efficiencies, decrease costs, maintain cash-flow and if feasible, expand their target markets,” said Eva Doss, executive director of SBTC. “The emergency fund will only be used in special cases where the given employer still has a future business potential but needs help in overcoming the recessionary period.”

Under a new agreement, the center will work with the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) to identify businesses needing help, “whether it is through the emergency fund or the regular services of the SBTC,” according to Jeff Mansour, senior program officer of The Harvest Foundation.

The center and EDC also will collaborate on some public programs and an informational campaign aimed at local businesses, he said. Those programs will help “people better understand the roles of both organizations and the resources available through both organizations,” Mansour added.

The center was established in 2005. It develops business and operating plans, and performs competitor and market research analyses to ensure the continuation of businesses and the retention of jobs in Southside Virginia.

Client fees are established on a sliding scale based on the stage of development of the company. In recent months, the center’s services have especially helped small- and medium-sized businesses coping with the recession in the local and national economies.

Mansour said the center services are a valuable resource for local employers.

“Their services help local employers meet challenges and take advantage of opportunities in a way that helps us keep or increase local jobs,” he stated. “This grant will also support a new partnership between the EDC and SBTC aimed at bringing more resources to bear to help local employers weather the current economic storm.”

The center can be reached at 638-2523, ext. 210.

The Harvest Foundation researches and invests in programs and initiatives in areas of health, education and welfare. It was established in 2002 from the sale of the Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. Its Web site is http://www.theharvestfoundation.org.