DECATUR, Alabama – When Decatur businessman C.L. Roberts opened 1st Impression Cleaning Services two years ago, he turned to the city’s Entrepreneurial Center on Fourth Avenue for guidance.
Roberts, who was among about two dozen small business owners involved in a roundtable discussion with Gov. Robert Bentley this afternoon, said increased small business support is needed in Morgan County and across the state.
Bentley was in Decatur today for his Road to Economic Recovery Tour, a series of stops throughout Alabama that focus on state-level job creation efforts and the economic climate.
“When I first started, I just knew I had an idea for a business,” Roberts said after the meeting. “I think the Entrepreneurial Center is a very good start, but I think a small business advisory program should be the next step after this.”
Bentley, who is running for a second term in office, told attendees – some of which were new or aspiring business owners – his next mission is to develop a small business advisory council in Alabama.
Bentley, who came to Huntsville on April 4 for his economic recovery tour, praised the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center for its efforts to jumpstart new companies. He compared the E-Center to an incubator, an enclosed apparatus used in hospitals to care for and protect premature babies.
“(Incubators) are great because you help people survive to get through that incubation period,” Bentley said. ” … One of these days, you’ll be out of that incubator hopefully. You won’t be here forever, and you’ll begin to grow, you’ll be able to expand, you’ll have a larger company and you’ll be able to hire a lot more people.”
Bentley, who told Mobile entrepreneurs earlier this month he’s making small business in Alabama a priority, said his administration is working to provide more structure to small companies across the state.
He referred to several resources already in place, including small business entities at Alabama universities, the state Department of Revenue’s website and small business divisions within ADECA and the commerce department.
“We’ve got these small business entities across the state, but they’re not put together,” he said. “My next mission, my next goal is to create a small business advisory council and bring them together so that you can find out where the resources are and see how they all tie together.”
The new small business resource will be a “one-stop” shop where “if you have a question, you can click on it, you can ask a question and they can route you in the right direction to find the answer,” Bentley said.
“It’s just organization and I think it will help create more small businesses,” he said. “Small businesses create more jobs than Airbuses and Remingtons and Golden Dragon and all these other companies we’ve recruited over the last three years.”
As the state pursues economic development projects and supplies large incentive packages to recruit major operations to the state, some attendees expressed interest in whether incentives could be available to small businesses or other startup companies looking to relocate or expand.
Bentley said the small business outlook for acquiring such funds is grim.
“When I recruit a Remington with 2,100 jobs to Huntsville, we’re able to give them incentive packages and we’re able to put all sorts of stuff for them,” he said. “But we can’t do that for retail, we can’t do that for small business because we just don’t have the legislation to do that.”
In addition to the small business roundtable, Bentley had lunch at Big Bob Gibson BBQ and participated in Walter Jackson Elementary School’s Teacher Appreciation Day kickoff.
April 21, 2014