Georgia Hits Milestone in Building State's Entrepreneur Power
|Tuesday, July 3, 2007||
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DeKalb County becomes state’s 50th Entrepreneur Friendly Community
ATLANTA– Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that Georgia’s Entrepreneur Friendly program has now been embraced by 50 of the state’s counties. DeKalb County, which completed its certification program this week, is the state’s 50th community to be designated Entrepreneur Friendly by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD).
“This innovative program is a success because of the enthusiasm with which Georgia’s communities have embraced policies and programs meant to encourage the start-up and growth of small businesses,” said Governor Perdue. “Small businesses make up 95 percent of Georgia’s companies, and I am pleased the state has been able to work hand-in-hand with our communities to empower this key business sector with the tools they need for success.”
Governor Perdue created the Entrepreneur Friendly program in 2004 to enable Georgia’s communities to strategically develop an environment in which entrepreneurs and small businesses can flourish. Ninety-one percent of DeKalb County’s 31, 476 businesses are considered small businesses (fewer than 19 employees).
“The Entrepreneur Friendly surveys indicate that DeKalb will grow 100,000 jobs through small businesses over the next two years,” said DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones. “Technology has leveled the playing field for small business, and we need to focus on this area of growth.”
To earn the designation, communities analyze their existing entrepreneurial environment and then develop strategies tailored to address their findings, in order to help foster the growth of this critical business segment. The timeframe is generally community-driven, but in each case a community works with its regional small business representative from GDEcD. The final step is a full-day assessment by a review team composed of GDEcD staff and other state and regional small business entities.
DeKalb County completed the Entrepreneur-Friendly program with the assistance of GDEcD’s regional representative Lindsay Martin, and was reviewed by a team whose participants included the Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Administration and two state agencies, the Department of Labor and the Department of Community Affairs.
Georgia’s communities have adopted the program eagerly and rapidly. Lowndes and Coffee counties in south Georgia were designated the state’s first Entrepreneur Friendly counties in August 2004. Fannin County followed in October. In 2005, 10 communities were certified, and 19 more in 2006. DeKalb is the 18th community to be certified in just the first six months of 2007, and 75 more are in progress of achieving the designation. More than three-quarters of the state’s counties will have integrated entrepreneur-friendly strategies into their economic development plans by the time the program ends in August 2008.
The program has reached communities in all regions of the state. (See list at end of release.) DeKalb County joins almost a dozen other metro Atlanta counties, including Henry, Rockdale and Gwinnett, that have been designated Entrepreneur Friendly.
Entrepreneurs located in these communities enjoy decided advantages. Counties typically establish mechanisms to discover and cultivate entrepreneur growth, such as the S.E.E.D.S. center in Valdosta, increased educational outreach in Douglas, and youth entrepreneur camps in Fannin County.
“We are home-grown entrepreneurs, and without the commitment from the Valdosta community to make entrepreneurs successful, our business would not be where it is today,” said Ann Barnas of SmithBarnas and associates. Barnas and partner Megan Smith were the winners of the community’s 2006 business plan competition, offered through the Lowndes-Valdosta Entrepreneur Friendly program.
In addition, qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners in Entrepreneur Friendly communities become eligible for customized market data, such as demographic and business information, to help give them a competitive edge. Counties are also eligible for an Entrepreneur Friendly Implementation Fund (EFIF) grant to help them implement specific, long-term programs that support their entrepreneurs and small businesses. The grant must be matched 50 percent in dollars or in-kind value by the community.
The program’s focus on helping entrepreneurs grow and establish their ideas into small businesses has led to a number of successes. For instance, Coffee County’s sales tax collections increased by 20 percent from 2003, the year before the county was designated Entrepreneur Friendly, to 2006, and more than 550 new jobs have been created within Douglas’s city limits since the community’s certification. The Elbert County Chamber of Commerce’s Web page for Entrepreneurship has experienced almost 22,000 hits since the county’s designation in June 2006. The county is also instituting initiatives to develop technology and art as the entrepreneurial sectors suggested by the certification process.
“These are just some of the innovative ways our Entrepreneur Friendly counties have implemented the program,” said Heidi Green, chairman of the Georgia Entrepreneur and Small Business Coordinating Network and GDEcD’s deputy commissioner for Global Commerce. “The success of our small businesses is the greatest foundation for Georgia’s economic strength.”
Georgia’s Entrepreneur-Friendly Counties
- Valdosta-Lowndes County
- Douglas-Coffee County
- Ashburn-Turner County
- Adel-Cook County
- Colquitt-Miller County
- Conyers-Rockdale County
- Albany-Dougherty County