New group aims to help local businesses

Four entities come together for effort

Four key groups have joined forces to support businesses, especially existing small businesses, in Fort Dodge and Webster County.

Those groups are America’s Small Business Development Center Iowa, Fort Dodge city government, the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and Iowa Central Community College.

“We have a group talking on a regular basis on what’s happening in the business world in Fort Dodge and Webster County with the goal of finding the gaps and filling them,” said Shelly Blunk, dean of economic development and continuing education at Iowa Central.

Dawn Larson, economic development specialist in the city’s Development Services Department, described the new task force as an “intentional collaboration to make sure we’re providing a cohesive service.”

The goal is to be “more proactive versus reactive,” she said.

By being proactive, this new task force can direct business owners to resources they need to thrive and expand, Larson said. She noted that 80 percent of existing businesses contribute to job growth and capital investment.

The task force also wants to be able to provide the information and resources to prevent businesses from closing. That may include helping business owners with transition and succession planning, an important consideration since an entire generation of small business owners is nearing retirement age.

To get solid data on the status of local businesses and what challenges they may need help with, the new task force is launching a survey. Jefferson Fosbender, economic development director of the Growth Alliance, said the survey results will provide a “state of the union” of the local business community.

That survey will be emailed to all local business owners and managers in June.

Going forward, the task force wants to create programming and build a system to support businesses. The survey results will provide the information the task force will use to shape that programming and support system.

“There is this effort and it is intentional,’ said Kirsten Case Fuller, regional director of America’s Small Business Development Center Iowa. “We’re coordinating our efforts. We’re working together to make sure businesses are served.”


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