New chief named for Walla Walla Small Business Development Center

Joe Jacobs will take the reins of the recently reborn Small Business Development Center.

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WALLA WALLA -- An entrepreneur, business executive and former small-business owner will be the new adviser for Walla Walla's Small Business Development Center.

Joe Jacobs will operate the local office, which is in the midst of a revival after a more than yearlong absence from the community.

Jacobs will provide free one-on-one business advising to area clients. The service had for years been offered in Walla Walla, but closed in April 2010 due to budgetary cuts.

The new hire was announced Wednesday by Brett Rogers, state director for Washington's Small Business Development Center network.

In an interview this morning, Jacobs said he has been getting acquainted with local business and government officials this week and hopes in the coming days to learn more about the business community's desires and expectations.

"I really want to get a sense of what the community is in need of most," he said.

In the meantime he continues to run through the network's required training and will likely be available to see clients by the middle of next week.

Rogers said Walla Walla's enthusiasm for the service has been the driving force in re-establishing the local office.

"We don't have another community in the state that has embraced the idea of a Small Business Development Center like Walla Walla," Rogers said. "It's amazing how many people down there -- from community leaders to bankers to government agencies -- who really see the value the Small Business Development Center can bring..."

Jacobs will be stationed at the Port of Walla Walla's administrative office, 310 A St., for the time being. A new location may be in the works down the road, officials said.

According to the announcement, Jacobs will join a network of 26 other business advisers across the state. Their expertise comes from a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, engineering, high-tech innovation, retail sales and business management. Any questions Jacobs may not be able to answer on his own can be posed to others in the network.

The service provides assistance in the form of guidance and resources to businesses. In 2011, advisers across Washington state met with more than 2,800 small-business owners, Rogers said. They developed ongoing advising relationships with nearly 90 percent of them. Clients, he said, credited advisers with helping to create or save more than 600 jobs, 118 new businesses and secure nearly $30 million in capital.

The network includes four international trade specialists who assist small-business clients who are either new to export or considering expanding their current export operations.

What Jacobs brings to Walla Walla is an extensive background as both a business owner and an employee in numerous sectors.

He previously owned an inert landfill and roll-off trucking company from 1996 to 2006. He worked a year as president of a Spokane-based winery and event center. He later operated a solid waste consulting and eco-construction company. Most recently he worked as an operations specialist for CH2MHill in Richland.

"What attracted me to this job is just the excitement of working with a multitude of small businesses," Jacobs said.

He said one of his strong suits is a planning background that he believes will help with the guidance of long-range plans for business owners.

"If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you've arrived?" he quipped.

Jacobs said he looks equally forward to working with established businesses on the path to expansion. "An owner could come to me and we could talk about different ideas," he said.

The Walla Walla Small Business Development Center is part of a collaboration between local agencies and the Small Business Development Center Network, an economic development program of Washington State University and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The budget is estimated at $120,000 to $130,000. Half of that is federal funding. The other half is local from financial or in-kind contributions, officials have said.

The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation will be the fiscal agent for the center, on behalf of Partnership Walla Walla, an organization of local agencies including the Port of Columbia, cities of Waitsburg, Walla Walla and College Place, Tourism Walla Walla, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, Walla Walla Community College, downtown foundation and Milton-Freewater Community Development Partnership.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

Get In Touch

To reach Walla Walla's Small Business Development Center, call 527-4681.

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