A variety of agencies offer help to small-business owners

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli

Owning a business is hard work. Whether a company is just getting started or it’s ready to expand, guidance and advice are helpful to have along the way. In the following pages, you’ll find a number of lists for business resources in the commonwealth.

Economic development of­­fices in Virginia, for example, work to retain existing businesses and attract new companies. Virginia’s Economic Development Partnership, the commonwealth’s economic development arm, touts Virginia’s major airports, railroads, highway systems and access to the Port of Virginia.  Economic development officials can answer a number of key questions about doing business in Virginia, ranging from permits to tax rates, building space and available work force.

Business incubators and small business development centers are another resource for companies. Incubators can provide businesses with office space, access to conference rooms, training and consulting.

At the Mason Enterprise Center in Fairfax, which is considered an incubator, business owners can take advantage of the monthly Lunch and Learn program. Each session features speakers discussing important business issues. Past topics have included social media and health care.

The Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program also is part of the Mason Enterprise Center. It aims to increase contracting activity involving small businesses, prime government contractors and the federal government. “We have about 35 companies co-located in the building with us,” says Judy Barral, the director of the Fairfax Mason Enterprise Center. “They get to know each other, network and sometimes collaborate on projects and contracts, and we have a virtual program where clients don’t occupy space but come in on a regular basis for networking events and counseling.”

The center has locations throughout Northern Virginia. It specializes in small-business services, government contracting, international business, entrepreneurship, technology ventures and telework initiatives.
Virginia’s Small Business Development Center network has offices throughout the commonwealth. The SBDCs, which serve as guides for small businesses, often are housed in incubator sites.

The Passport to Global Markets program implemented by the SBDC network helps companies develop international growth strategies. The program consists of three days of in-house training that includes panel discussions, seminars and individual counseling. This year the SBDC network is hosting the Passport to Global Markets program in three cities: Norfolk, Fairfax and Roanoke. The SBDC also has a special program for retailers and restaurateurs as well as one for veteran entrepreneurs.

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