RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's commerce leaders on Wednesday unveiled a central location for small-business owners to find information about government resources to help them.
"In these challenged economic times, there are many businesses that can use the help that's through the network," state Commerce Secretary Jim Fain said.
About 98 percent of the state's employers are considered small businesses because they employ fewer than 500 people. Fain said he wants to see them survive the downtown and flourish – and more join their ranks – when the economy rebounds.
In addition to the Department of Commerce, the Web site includes services offered by the Small Business Center Network of North Carolina’s community colleges, the state Employment Security Commission, the state departments of Agriculture & Consumer Services and Revenue, the Secretary of State's Office, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the North Carolina Community Development Initiative, the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development, the Rural Economic Development Center and the University of North Carolina System, including the Small Business and Technology Development Center and North Carolina State University’s Industrial Extension Service.
"The timing couldn't be better. Lots and lots of folks are dealing with issues of business survival," said Scott Daugherty, executive director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center.
Lisa Disbrow, the owner of Scout & Molly's, said she tapped into Daugherty's center six years ago when she opened her clothing boutique in Raleigh's North Hills to learn more about writing a business plan and the importance of a good retail location. Now, she has three stores and more than a dozen employees.
"We've definitely grown a lot more than I thought we would," Disbrow said. "Most people don't even know about those resources that are out there."
The Department of Commerce will maintain the site and also will provide a toll-free hotline at 800-228-8443 on weekdays to answer business owners' questions or refer them to participating agencies or other resources, Fain said.
“Until now, there has been no central place to access the state’s wealth of resources," he said.