Chamber Hosts Luncheon Educating Community on Small Business Resources


Ryan Waldrep with the Georgia Economic Development Commission explains how the GA EDC can help small businesses.  More photos

Small businesses are a significant part of the Georgia economy, making a luncheon Wednesday on the subject for those interested in learning more about how to develop them a helpful one.

The luncheon took place at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Topics of discussion included a definition of small business, business opportunities created by tourism and entertainment, financial resources available to small businesses, how “makers space” is improving collaboration between entrepreneurs and the 2017 Small Business Week and Rock Star awards.

Ryan Waldrep, assistant director of entrepreneur and small business and regional project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, served as the event’s facilitator.

The state of Georgia is divided into 12 economic development regions. The metro Albany area is in Region 10, which includes 14 surrounding Southwest Georgia counties. Waldrep said that, as of last month, 690,000 different entities located within those regions were registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Of those 690,000, 296,000 had employment information. Broken down by number of employees, 99.8 percent had less than 500, 97.6 percent had less than 100 and 94.6 percent had less than 50.

Waldrep said that even those businesses with less than 10 employees still make up a large portion of the number of companies in the state, coming in at 77.7 percent, with many of those within Georgia’s downtown and retail areas. While those companies continue to do business, thousands more are contacting economic development officials over the course of a year to establish roots in Georgia, he said.

“We are talking to people every day,” Waldrep said.

Individuals looking to establish a small business may be able to take advantage of some things, including tax credits, that they may not know they are eligible for.

“There is a lot we can do to connect (people) to resources we may have,” Waldrep said. “Some think they are only for big companies.”

The television industry has developed a number of business opportunities in Georgia thanks to shows such as “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries” filming in cities throughout the state. Fans of these shows bring tourist dollars into the filming locations, in turn bringing chances to build on marketing opportunities.

“(These cities) are using tourism as business opportunities,” Waldrep said.

Companies are constantly looking for new states to relocate to, providing an incentive for Georgia to compete for more business. One of the elements to growing a business is exporting, something small businesses can also profit from as long as there is potential for a product to sell overseas.

“When a lot of people think of exporting, (they think of that) happening with just big businesses,” Waldrep said. “There is assistance available to finance export opportunities.”

Waldrep said that, for exporting, 11 offices around the globe are dedicated to promoting Georgia and the products the state produces. If there is demand for a product in another country, the market for it is found.

“We can find areas of the globe buying that type of product,” he said.

Waldrep added that innovation centers exist to connect researchers and small businesses to determine the potential for new products. He further noted that the work force is getting older, but that programs are in place for seasoned employees who want to help entrepreneurs get their start.

A new trend in economic development is “makers space,” which often includes establishments — such as coffee shops — where those without an office space can collaborate with other individuals. The ultimate idea is that helpful methods can eventually be established through such meetings in moving a concept forward.

Waldrep said that 2017 Small Business Week will be taking place in February of next year, and that a small business blog will soon offer weekly highlights of one company with less than 100 employees from each Georgia county.

The Rock Star program, which recognizes significant developments in small businesses, is going into its fourth year. The nomination period for the 2017 cycle is ongoing through the end of October, Waldrep said.

For more information on business programs and resources, visit

Article Courtesy of The Albany Herald
By Jennifer Parks