LIMA — Minority businesses owners from the region had a chance to “have a voice” within state government, a state official said Wednesday.
Nearly 20 minority business owners and community leaders gathered Wednesday for a roundtable discussion to address the challenges that come with growing a business in the Lima region and potential solutions to these issues.
“I do these roundtables throughout the state so I can talk to our minority business partners about what their concerns are and what their business challenges are,” said Jeffrey Johnson, 0f the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Minority Business Development Division. “Then, we can articulate what resources are available to help accomplish their growth goals.”
Through the Northwest Ohio Business Assistance Center, minority employers have access to free one-on-one consulting, assistance completing federal, state and local certification applications and referrals for financial assistance programs. With 26.4 percent of Lima’s population being black in the 2010 Census, there’s an opportunity in the city.
One of the organization’s satellite assistance centers, the Walter C. Potts Entrepreneur Center, is located in the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Lima. The center collaborates with the chamber, the Small Business Development Center at Rhodes State College, Diversified Managements Services Inc. and local business leaders.
Services include technical assistance for business plan development, accounting and marketing, access to public and private financing opportunities, such as loans and bonds, and contract assistance to help companies attain business certifications.
Before he was hired into the Development Services Agency in September, Johnson said these resources were going unused.
“We’re trying to make our partners throughout the state understand that they have access to these resources,” he said.
While resources are available, funding is limited. The Entrepreneur Center in Lima still lacks a full-time employee who can speak with minority business owners on a regular basis. This was a concern among many local entrepreneurs who attended the roundtable.
“We need a person in this city to answer our questions,” said Jesse Lowe, a 3rd Ward Lima councilman and owner of Black Lace Hair Salon.
Johnson said he or someone else from the agency would be willing to travel frequently to Lima for these type of discussions, and Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jed Metzger said he would look into finding someone to fill this role.
Another suggestion was to hold a workshop where current and future minority business owners could learn about what resources are available, along with finding out who they should contact. Officials hope to put a workshop together in July.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima