For the past few years, the Small Business Development Center has offered expert advice to Hernando County's small-business operators.
This week, it was the Hernando County Commission that stepped up to provide help for the center, which is in the offices of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
For the past two years, the center was funded with grant money provided to the chamber by the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board, but that money has dried up, forcing the chamber to reduce the contract with the center from $25,000 to $17,000, leaving the office open just two days a week.
Further negotiations have reduced the contract to $14,000, according to Morris Porton of the chamber's governmental affairs committee.
The commission on Tuesday approved a partnership with the center, the chamber and Hernando Progress, a group of business leaders, to keep the center operating.
The chamber will absorb the $18,600 cost of housing the center. The county and Hernando Progress will each pay $7,000.
"We're basically investing in jobs and job creation,'' said County Commission Chairman Dave Russell.
Especially during tough economic times, small-business people don't have the time to track down experts to help them with everything from accounting to inventory control, Porton said.
Others come to the area ready to invest their life savings in a business they've always dreamed of opening, but without help from experts, they could find themselves biting off too much and failing, he said.
That's where the Small Business Development Center comes in.
"We think that it's a very important project,'' Porton said. "There have been so many success stories. It helps people run their business. It helps people survive.''
The center, which is affiliated with the University of South Florida, opened at the chamber office in 2010. Staff from the center offers free one-on-one confidential counseling, ranging from marketing and business plan development to succession and strategic planning.
The center also provides training and data that can be useful to businesspeople.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.