- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Greater North Dakota Chamber has created a new forum for small business owners within its organization.

“Small business is the backbone of North Dakota and the U.S. economy as a whole,” said Heidi Ripplinger, GNDC marketing and communications director.

The concept for the Small Business Council was based on the same format as the chamber’s CEO Roundtable, and chamber board members felt small business could benefit from a similar program. The business owners receive information from a presenter and talk among themselves about how to address common problems, the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/295fheC ) reported.

“Sometimes, it’s nice to have one on one with other business owners,” said Ripplinger, adding that, in group discussions, the business owners often feed off each other’s questions.

Mike Gallagher, district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, spoke on financing options offered through SBA. He said SBA is constantly trying to get the word out about its programs.

“People signed up for the next one already without knowing the topic,” Ripplinger said as an indication of the event’s success.

As someone who works with small business owners in the state, Gallagher said he sees the Small Business Council as a way for the chamber to better connect with small businesses. The state chamber is a representative of business to the state government and being able to make that connection is what sets the Small Business Council apart from other business education programs.

While some local chambers may get involved with the state Legislature, the state chamber has a further reach.

“So many issues come out of state Legislature that having somebody to keep on top of issues is one of the key areas,” Gallagher said, and the state chamber can be that for small businesses that don’t have the resources to do it themselves.

Ripplinger said there were a few more than 20 people at each of the two first events held in Dickinson and Fargo. She said there were quite a few emerging business owners at the Fargo event, so new they didn’t even have their business. However, the event is meant to be open to all business people, from lawyers to clothing boutiques to pizza shop owners, and could help all of them with the challenges they face.

GNDC chose to hold the events over lunch hour and move them to a bunch of locations around the state in order to adapt and reach as many of the busy owners of small companies as possible.

“They’re so busy running their business that there’s so little time for them to do research,” Ripplinger said, so GNDC tries to bring the answers to them.

She said GNDC also has the benefit of a larger network.

“(A business) may do well locally but have not had the opportunity to reach out statewide,” Ripplinger said.

GNDC board member Tim Brumfield of Gate City Bank hosted the Dickinson event. He said the board suggested the formation of the council because small business is important and it wanted to ensure the small business voice was being heard.

“The big plus to me was the roundtable with CEOs of successful local businesses answering questions for startups,” he said of the first event. “The thing I remember most was the willingness of established businesses to share their expertise; it’s invaluable.”

The next Small Business Council events are scheduled for Oct. 18 in Bismarck and Oct. 25 in Grand Forks and will focus on marketing.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com



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