Lack of a qualified, motivated workforce one of the toughest obstacles small businesses face, says senior business adviser
By Lou Sorendo
Q.: What do you believe are some of the tougher obstacles facing small business owners in Oswego County and Central New York?
A.: I feel that the toughest issue facing businesses will be the lack of a qualified and motivated workforce. I see this across all industry sectors. I also know that significant efforts to combat this are being implemented by numerous agencies across the county. Being in the same office as the Workforce Development Board of Oswego County gives me a firsthand view of those efforts. Because there are more jobs than candidates to fill them, hiring and retention are going to be more difficult. The rising minimum wage is also a factor that can be troublesome.
Q.: Of the services that the Small Business Development Center offers, which are most in demand today?
A.: By far the most popular service is the assistance in business plan and financial projection preparation. The New York State Small Business Development Center has a proprietary online platform known as Entreskills which allows a client to work with a template at his or her own pace to develop his or her plan. My office also has a unique program for developing the necessary financial data to demonstrate viability. Once the client determines start-up requirements, estimated revenue and expenses as well as the assumptions these are based upon, I can prepare five years of financial projections which includes a profit and loss statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet for each year.
Q.: How has participation in the Micro-Enterprise Business Training Program trended over the past several years? Are folks taking advantage of the program? What do you see as its most significant benefits to business owners and prospective business owners?
A.: Over the past five years, the class sizes have been very stable. We have graduated an average of 35 attendees per year. The advantages of participation are many. While everyone knows how to do the job, so to speak, the class gives an insight into the back room operations. Attendees have access to professionals in accounting; human resources; legal; marketing; real estate; and risk management-insurance. The class is also a great opportunity for networking. The last benefit of completion is the eligibility to apply for the microloans provided by local and county economic development agencies.
Q.: Both the cities of Oswego and Fulton are in the midst of significant downtown beautification projects thanks to the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Do you see this as a catalyst for future small business growth in these two cities?
A.: There is no doubt in my mind that the infusion of DRI funding will have a major impact on not only small business, but on the attitude of the region. I have already seen an increase in excitement and willingness to investigate new business possibilities. As the region becomes more energized and attractive to outside investors and potential residents, there will be a growing need for goods and services. I would like to think that Oswego County residents would step up to fill that need. We have the tools to make it happen; we just need the people to use those tools.