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Championing small business in Southeast Portland
Story by Christine Egan. Photos by James Hill and the SBDC.
Small business owners in Southeast Portland have another advocate in the neighborhood thanks to Portland Community College.
The college’s Small Business Development Center, which is part of PCC’s CLIMB Center for Advancement, has opened a new location at the college’s Southeast Campus (2305 SE 82nd and Division). It’s the third SBDC office established by PCC (other locations include CLIMB Center near OMSI and at Willow Creek in Washington County) and is located in the heart of the Jade District – one of six city-designated Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI) zones in Portland. The zones aim to transform underserved business districts into engines of economic growth without displacing the communities that live and work there.
Tammy Marquez-Oldham, director of the SBDC, said the campus was a natural choice for the newest SBDC (Administration Hall, Suite 404), which focuses on supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs.
“The City of Portland has really focused its economic development efforts in Southeast and East Portland, and we can leverage that momentum from the small business perspective,” said Marquez-Oldham.
“We know that thriving small businesses raise the vitality of the communities where they reside. And yet in this area of Portland, there is a large concentration of small business owners who may not know how to ask for help or even realize that there are business development resources that can help them,” she said. “They just do it on their own, by the sheer force of will and persistency.”
As part of PCC’s Southeast Campus, the newest SBDC is located in the only census tract in Multnomah County where people of color are in the majority (53 percent) and have the greatest number of Asian residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau. In response, Marquez-Oldham has assembled a team of experienced business advisors who are successful independent business owners and share language, ethnicity and cultural background with the community they serve. Advisors are able to personally relate to a business owner’s experiences and challenges, and when needed, can communicate with them in their native language, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese or Tagalog.
“For many immigrant business owners in the Jade District, English is their second language, and they may be unfamiliar with rules, regulations, licenses and permits required to operate a business in the City of Portland,” said Marquez-Oldham.
This is where the advisors’ expertise is critical; it reduces the learning curve and helps pave the road to success for some of Portland’s newest, entrepreneurial residents.
“These business owners are entrepreneurs – they are creative, optimistic, persistent and resilient,” said Marquez-Oldham, “and our SBDC advisors can support them as they create a new future and new jobs for themselves and their families.”
Advisors meet with business owners at their convenience, either at their place of business or at the SBDC. In confidential one-on-one advising sessions, they discuss business goals, challenges, and opportunities – for instance, capital to support growth issues, operations, sales, customer service or marketing.
“Our first step is to listen to the business owner,” said Marquez-Oldham.
Based on a review of the business owner’s original goals, advisors may suggest tailored kinds of resources and support available at the SBDC such as the Capital Access Team, International Trade advising and education, social media marketing, or food entrepreneurship training.
“It is exciting to have this tremendous community asset on our campus,” said Jessica Howard, president of the Southeast Campus. “With more than 130 small businesses in the Jade District alone, the new center is ideally located to support local business owners. It will allow us to leverage the significant investments in planning, redevelopment and construction that PCC, the Jade District, the City of Portland, Warner Pacific College, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation are making in this area.”
The newest SBDC center is equidistant between the CLIMB Center (1626 SE Water Ave.) and similar centers located in Clackamas and at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. PCC’s SBDC locations serve five counties – Yamhill, Columbia, Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah – and with the centers in Clackamas and Gresham, the collective effort illustrates a bridge of support and resources across the region.
Plans are already under way to collaborate with a variety of Southeast Portland organizations – the Jade District and other NPI districts in East Portland, IRCO, APANO, and various chambers of commerce – in an effort to assist local business owners with job creation, access to capital, attracting new customers, and generating sales.
“Through education, training, and advising programs, the new SBDC location will support the college’s strategic planning goal of building a strong and vital economy,” said Bob Hanks, executive director of PCC’s CLIMB Center for Advancement.
For more information about business advising or training, contact the SBDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or (971) 722-5081. To learn more about the SBDC, visit: bizcenter.org/PCC.