Woodward, Okla. —
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is reaching out to rural Oklahoma.
The SBA has scheduled a number of "listening sessions" in smaller cities throughout the state to hear from those trying to do business and/or build business in the outlying areas and learn more about the challenges experienced there.
"This is the SBA's way of getting out to rural areas, because usually they spend all their time in Oklahoma City and Tulsa," said Jeanne Cole, assistant regional director of the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC) at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
OKSBDC offices have helped organize the various listening sessions throughout the state, Cole said. Like the SBA, she said OKSBDC seeks to provide assistance to small businesses, but primarily with a technical focus through free consulting on a wide range of topics from finances to marketing to management.
Cole said the SBA will be visiting 4 communities in the Northwest quadrant of the state, including Enid, Guymon, Ponca City and Woodward.
In fact, Woodward will host 2 of these SBA listening sessions next week.
Both sessions will be held on July 31, with the first slated for 9 a.m. in the Woodward Main Street Organization office at 11th and Main, and the second is set for 11:30 a.m. at the NWOSU-Woodward campus.
Cole explained that the first session "is more geared toward the downtown businesses but it's open to anyone who wants to come."
The second session is being cosponsored by NWOSU and the Woodward Chamber of Commerce and is also open to anyone who wants to attend, she said. Lunch will be provided at the later session.
Cole said that Tim Jeffcoat, who is the deputy director of the SBA's Oklahoma District, will be attending the listening sessions in Woodward.
"He (Jeffcoat) wants to visit with Woodward business people and economic development people about the problems they're facing either in attracting business or growing business," she said.
Input is desired from all those involved in local small business development, Cole said.
"It could be existing business owners who've maybe struggled financially for one reason or another or maybe they want to expand and they want to know about the resources SBA offers," she said.
Or, she said, "it might be somebody who is just interested in maybe starting a small business who just wants to be able to ask questions about what's available to them."
In addition to current or potential business owners, Cole said "lenders are welcome to come, as well as Chamber members, those in tourism," because they too all have ties to the success of small businesses.
Cole described the listening session as a "very informal" meeting.
"The SBA is not coming out to put on a program; they're coming out to listen to what people are experiencing in Northwest Oklahoma," she said.
That's why during the session it will be the attendees who will be doing most of the talking while Jeffcoat listens.
"There will probably be a floating mic so that people can ask questions or make comments," Cole said.
She said attendees may even choose to share suggestions for what kind of assistance they would like to see the SBA offer.
While she doesn't know specific plans for what the SBA will do with the information it gleans from its listening sessions in Woodward and around the state, Cole said the ultimate goal is to further the SBA's mission in providing assistance to small businesses.
"I would assume since the deputy district director is coming that he'll be taking the information back to the district office in Oklahoma City and compile it with other information from across the state. Then maybe they'll see fit there's a program they can develop or something more they can do to help folks," Cole said.
No pre-registration is required to attend either of the listening sessions in Woodward.
"They can just show up and attend," Cole said.
However, for questions or more information about the upcoming SBA event, contact Jeane Cole by phone at (580) 327-8608 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.