For business owners facing tough economic times, some heartening news: the Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce has hired a business assistance specialist to work with the 2,000 or so companies in Palm Harbor, Ozona, Crystal Beach and East Lake.
Cathy Germer, 54, began Oct. 8 in the position created through a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce, Pinellas County's economic development program and the Palm Harbor Library.
Her services are free to all businesses, not just chamber members.
Essentially she will serve as a liaison between businesses and the three partners, as well as organizations and programs available to assist businesses and regulatory agencies.
"I'm here to provide technical assistance to businesses (by) giving them what they need to know to be successful," she said. "I can help them develop business plans, offer financial resource information, give referrals to accountants and lawyers, provide zoning and permitting information, things like that."
Germer said she plans to visit local businesses with surveys to help identify any issues and concerns they want addressed. She will also provide technical assistance for business startups, expansions and relocations.
Germer was formerly employed as a branch manager for Interim Services, a staffing services agency, where she worked for 14 years serving the Palm Harbor, Largo, Clearwater and West Pasco County areas.
"I made a lot of contacts with businesses in the area and I know their products and services," she said.
Originally from the Detroit area, she is married to Kevin Germer and has two adult sons. They reside in Odessa.
Germer won't say how much she is making for the position, which has an annual renewable contract. Pinellas County is kicking in $20,000 toward the partnership and is supplying expertise and training, said Cynthia Spearman, senior business assistance manager for Pinellas County Economic Development.
"This is the ninth specialist in the county," Spearman said. Other business assistance specialists are in Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and St. Petersburg. An eighth serves the unincorporated areas of Pinellas County.
The Palm Harbor Library is providing in-kind services such as use of books and software. The Greater Palm Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce is providing cash, training, office space, telephone and supplies for the position.
"We've been working almost three years to get this position going," said Connie Davis, president and CEO of the chamber. "We are excited and think it is a great partnership that will really serve the community."