Effort to bring back small-business center benefits entire Valley

We were concerned when the Walla Walla Area Small Business Center was closed in 2010 but pleased community leaders were able to re-establish a center.

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Once again, this community's leaders have found a solution to a difficult problem by working together.

It was announced this week that a small business development center would be re-established in Walla Walla. Funding has been secured for a center that will provide information and advice on everything from startup to long-term survival.

The center is expected to open Nov. 1, according to an announcement Tuesday from Downtown Walla Walla Foundation Executive Director Elio Agostini. This center will fill a big need in this community.

Walla Walla, like most relatively small cities, is built on local businesses.

Given that, we were concerned when the Walla Walla Area Small Business Center was shut down after 17 years because of state budget cutbacks.

While we didn't like the move, we understood it. Difficult choices have to be made in tough times.

The state's economy hasn't gotten much better since then, so we were somewhat surprised - yet pleased - that a group of local leaders had been working to put the center back in business.

"It was obvious that this community wanted it again," Agostini told U-B business reporter Vicki Hillhouse.

About half of the money for the new center will come from federal funding. The rest of the money will come from a $5,000 contribution from the Port of Walla Walla. Another $2,500 must be gathered from local contributions to keep the center operating in November and December, Agostini said.

The same scenario is unfolding for 2012. It is estimated operating the center will cost about $130,00 a year. Half of the money will come from federal funds while the other half must come locally from financial or in-kind contributions. Agostini said. The Port has committed $10,000 for next year. Banner Bank has also committed $2,000 each year over the next three years. And, of course, other donations will be needed.

Whenever government money is involved - whether federal, state or even local - there is no guarantee it will last. That's particularly true in the current economic climate.

Yet, given the lingering Great Recession, it seems a small business center is needed now more than ever. Navigating through these turbulent times is not easy. Getting some help from a knowledgeable source can be critical for the success of small businesses.

And when local businesses succeed it benefits the entire community. Bringing back a small business center is very good for the entire Walla Walla Valley.

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