Entrepreneurs might soon find a greater friend in Columbia County.
Development Authority of Columbia County Executive Director Zack Daffin said county officials and local business leaders will gather Monday at the Columbia County Library to learn about a statewide push for local governments to become "entrepreneur friendly."
Endorsed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, Entrepreneur Friendly is a state program that urges small-business development in each one of 10 state regions and 159 counties.
Last September, Adela Kelley, a regional manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, briefed the development authority board about the program. She said it places special emphasis on companies with fewer than 20 employees that are innovators in such fields as aerospace, agribusiness, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications and homeland security.
The program will also help government leaders identify startup companies in their infancy, Daffin said.
Daffin said a steering committee of 25 business, government and community leaders was chosen with the help of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce to poll small business owners about their needs and the county's receptiveness to those needs.
"What we're trying to do is gauge from our existing small businesses their thoughts about doing business in Columbia County, and from that build ... a strategic plan for fostering (small-business) growth," Daffin said.
Pat Goodwin, the business director for the Medical College of Georgia, who will lead the committee, along with Daffin and chamber Executive Director Gordon Renshaw, said the certification process allows businesses to learn "best practices" for development with each other.
Economic experts from the state will help approve the plan for developing businesses and helping to educate government and business leaders about state and federal government programs that can help business owners.
Daffin said the county's effort to earn Entrepreneur Friendly certification is part of a push by all member-counties of the Clarks Hill Partnership to foster business development.
Those five counties - Columbia, McDuffie, Lincoln, Wilkes and Warren - will work on attaining the state certification, he said.
With completion of the program, participating counties will receive special emphasis from state leaders courting prospective companies to locate in Georgia, Daffin said.
At least 32 of the state's counties are Entrepreneur Friendly certified, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development Web site. None of those is within the Clarks Hill Partnership or the Augusta area, according to the site.
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