A new plan for small business

An entrepreneurial development plan for Webster City is looking to create and expand local small businesses and see more employees hired in town.

On Monday, the city council approved the plan, developed in coordination with the Institute for Decision Making (IDM), part of the University of Northern Iowa’s business and community support program, and Iowa Source Link. Those groups received grant funds from the Economic Development Administration to work with two communities that are experiencing high unemployment and where there are conditions that might facilitate the creation of new small businesses. Webster City was one of those communities chosen.

David Toyer, Webster City economic developer, said IDM has worked with Webster City in 2010 as part of the city’s economic development efforts. They have consulted with the city to analyze the workforce displaced by the closing of Electrolux and what targeted industries the city should focus its efforts on.

“One of the things that came out of some of the survey work done when Electrolux was leaving, workforce development noted that there was a very high percentage of people working at Electolux that were being laid off that had interest in starting a business or would like to consider starting a business one day,” Toyer said. “We looked at that as an opportunity.”

Toyer said small business is a huge percentage of growth in America. He noted a couple of success stories from Webster City, including Vantec Inc. and Van Diest Supply Company.

The entrepreneurial development plan addresses several facets of small business. It includes access to capital, community capacity and support, technical assistance, training and networking.

“One of the biggest challenges of small businesses is, either there’s not money available for what they’re doing to help finance it or they don’t know where that money is at. It needs to be clear what capital can be accessed,” Toyer said.

Community capacity and support addresses the importance of institutions such as the Small Business Development Center in Fort Dodge and the Chamber of Commerce down to zoning codes. Toyer said a number of new zoning amendments were approved at the city council about a month ago that were more supportive of small business.

Technical assistance and training involves making resources such as small business consulting available to businesses. Toyer said the plan aims to streamline that process by making those institutions aware of other options available options for those businesses.

Toyer said networking is also essential for small businesses. He said small businesses tend to benefit from working with other small businesses and being in an environment where they can pair up with other groups that might have more expertise on a subject. Toyer said research shows that small businesses with assistance in these areas are more successful.

The goal of the plan is to see 10 new businesses start, 20 business expansions and 26 ore more new employees hired through 2015. Those numbers were reached through an IDM analysis that studied the population, number of businesses and capacity for entrepreneurship in Webster City.

“We believe [those numbers] are realistic,” Toyer said. “Given what it is we’re working on right now, we have several things that put us in those categories that will keep us moving towards those goals.”

Since the plan was approved by the city council, the plan will now go to a number of other groups. That includes the Small Business Development Center, the Chamber of Commerce, and others involved in the plan. Toyer said as the plan requires the expertise of more than just city officials, it will require approval of the other outside groups involved.

The mix of recruiting businesses to relocate to Webster City, helping grow existing businesses and working with new businesses is vital to the economic success of Webster City, according to Toyer.

“While it’s great to have a large employer in town, you’ve also seen in Webster City what happens when such an integral large business leaves. It has a huge impact. The goal behind all this is to try and diversify the types of businesses in Webster City. By diversifying, we insulate ourselves against more significants negative things like the departure of Electrolux.”