Monday, June 29, 2015
SPRINGFIELD — Area business owners, chamber of commerce officials and state legislators gathered in Springfield on Friday to talk about entrepreneurship.
The western regional office of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center held a legislative roundtable session titled “Entrepreneurship: The Future of the Pioneer Valley” at the Andrew M. Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield.
Speakers from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Valley Venture Mentors, Paragus Strategic I.T., Apex Healthcare Services and HitPoint Studios spoke about their experience expanding their businesses.
State Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, who spoke briefly at the start of the event, said the gathering was aimed at educating people about organizations and tools available in western Massachusetts to help spur economic development through entrepreneurship.
“The backbone of our economy everywhere is the development of small businesses to grow into large businesses,” Rosenberg told the Gazette.
The center helps connect people, with tools and services including technical assistance, access to capital, training and education, to help develop their business. It is based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the state Office of Business Development.
The center guides people through “all of the steps you have to take in order to determine if the idea you have can take root and have a customer base,” Rosenberg said.
Cari Carpenter, the Grinspoon Foundation’s director of entrepreneurship, talked about one of the organization’s programs. Each year 500 college-aged entrepreneurs are trained in business skills and eventually go on to compete for a monetary award to help launch their small business, Rosenberg said.
Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, said the Five Colleges and other educational institutions in the area help position the Pioneer Valley as a “breeding ground” for entrepreneurship.
“Grinspoon is providing some foundational support encouraging, mentoring and showcasing that entrepreneurial interest,” she said.
Beck said some of the most interesting comments were made by people from companies that began in the area and are still able to remain local as they grow, pointing to Apex Healthcare Services in Springfield as an example. The home health provider was founded about 15 years ago.
“The Valley has really positioned itself very well to provide the support services and the financial capital and need so (businesses) can stay in the Valley and grow here,” Beck said.
Beck said that the center has been a “significant resource” for chambers of commerce across the area. Dianne Doherty from the center comes to the Northampton chamber once a week to meet with business owners.
“She is able to connect those clients with the resources they need,” Beck said.
Beck said the connection that chambers of commerce have with local businesses coupled with the center’s training capabilities makes them natural allies.
“That just adds up to a really good partnership,” she said.
Chris Lindahl can be reached at email@example.com.