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Photos Cameron Flaisch

The University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center has been a pivotal figure for Georgia small businesses during the pandemic.

With 17 offices ranging from Rome to Valdosta, the SBDC has been providing tools, training and resources to Georgia’s small businesses since 1977. Their goal is to enhance the economic wellbeing of Georgians through educational services for small businesses, all at no or limited cost to Georgia taxpayers.

Because of the negative impact Covid-19 has had on the economy, this organization has been hard at work taking care of its clients in the midst of crisis.

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Richard Montanaro

The SBDC is working with their clients on how to stay in compliance with government regulations, creatively maximize their revenue, communicate with patrons, and operate legally in the midst of crisis. Richard Montanaro, the area director of the Rome branch of the SBDC, described the pandemic as hitting small businesses in two “waves.” Each wave gave the SBDC new challenges to walk through with their clients.

The first wave came with the news of businesses shutting down. “Our job was to be the calm in the storm,” Montanaro states. With all of the unknowns floating around, the SBDC reminded its clients of what they did know and gave them wisdom in tackling what they didn’t know.

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“We encouraged conservative decisions and gave an orderly process on how to financially attack the situation,” Richard adds.

The second phase required businesses to assess what reopening would look like. And while the thought of reopening was definitely good news, it came with a lot of hoops to jump through: CDC guidelines, funding needs, and strategy changes.

“You have to communicate to your customer base how you’re prioritizing their safety,” Montanaro says. “You have to think about what you can do to keep folks engaged and make sure you’re at the top of their mind when they’re in need for the resource that you provide.”

The SBDC has been listening to the community, church, nonprofit, and business leaders discussing strategies that best meet the needs of the community. Montanaro believes community members need to support small businesses the best they can, but everyone has to prioritize their own personal safety.

Montanaro closed by ensuring the SBDC would continue to train and provide resources for their small business clients. “Keep moving, stay legal, stay in communication, and look for creative ways to generate revenue. There’s no model where a community functions without small businesses.”

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