Karen Pan informed local Historic City News reporters that the St. Johns County Board of Commissioners was recognized this morning for assisting small businesses during the past year.
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of North Florida (UNF) presented the Regional Outstanding Resource Partner award to the County Commission in recognition of their outstanding contributions of advocacy, financial support, partnership building and advising in the creation of a St. Johns County office of the SBDC.
In 2009, the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved $40,000 to partner with the SBDC at UNF to establish a St. Johns County location, consistent with the County Commission’s number one goal of promoting economic development. This funding is matched dollar for dollar by federal and state partners. Prior to the fall of 2009, the SBDC at UNF provided counseling for St. Johns County clients via a circuit ride one day a month.
The SBDC now operates a full-time office in the St. Johns County Permit Center, located at the County Complex on Lewis Speedway. The County donated office space and provides receptionist support to greet clients at the center. Additionally, the County provides a conference room where the SBDC at UNF has hosted several small business workshops.
Marge Cirillo is the SBDC certified business analyst who assists clients, free of charge, in the St. Johns County Office. Since October 2009, she has seen 196 clients, providing more than 500 counseling hours. Cirillo has assisted these clients in starting thirteen businesses and creating or retaining 67 employees. Additionally, these clients have been successful in obtaining more than $1 million in capital.
“The County’s support has been a crucial component of us being able to serve small business owners in St. Johns County at a time when they are facing significant challenges and need assistance,” said Cirillo. “I am grateful to the County for partnering with us on this important economic initiative that has benefited entrepreneurs and the community as a whole.”
The SBDC at UNF is part of a national network of small business development centers that have assisted hundreds of thousands of potential and existing business owners by providing the management advice, training and information they need to start, grow and profit. Services include group training as well as one-on-one counseling to address small business issues including start up, business planning, marketing, financing and more. The SBDC has access to tools and information to help small business owners make decisions.