Thriving Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
By Mary Anne Petrillo CEO West Business Development Center
As part of my work as CEO of West BDC, I attend conferences around the U.S. to learn more about small businesses, economic growth and community development. In March I attended the 39th Annual California Economic Development Conference for the second time. This conference in particular is focused on celebrating how California’s Economic Developers are “making it happen” every day in our communities. Although we don’t often connect the dots between small business and how they contribute to our economy as a whole, and even our quality of life as a community, what I’ve seen firsthand in my work here in Mendocino and Lake County demonstrates these important links everyday.
To that end, this year I had an opportunity to present West’s work on a panel about Thriving Entrepreneurial Ecosystems with Heidi Pickmen from CAMEO and Heather Gurewitz from EDFC. I spoke to the audience of policymakers, Economic Development Officers and City and Community Managers about the small businesses of Mendocino and Lake County. I talked about how important small businesses and technical assistance are when we talk about economic development and reminded them how in today’s climate entrepreneurs struggle to understand shifts in consumer preferences and keep up with new technologies. That learning curve combined with understanding permits, loans and regulations can be daunting. I highlighted clients like Amy Collins of the Village Sock Shop, who was brand new to retail but innately understood how vital a small business is to a community. Her curiosity and love of learning new things led her to combine her brick and mortar sales with online technologies. Or Peter Marshall who was teaching computer classes before he started Mendo TechNet. What began as a hobby, became a side business, then a full-time business and now a second office in Lake County with five employees.
Improving an economy requires activating many levers. It takes creating a roadmap that builds upon existing assets, taking incremental actions to strengthen communities, and building long-term value to attract a range of investments. So, when Cities and Counties can lower the barrier to entry into entrepreneurship, whether it be streamlining permits, simplifying regulations, or securing partnerships with technical assistance programs, they are taking the first steps to creating a thriving economic environment. I hope we’ll see more of this in the coming years so small businesses can thrive here.
Small Businesses are the heart and soul of their communities – they contribute to a healthy tax base, build stronger economy for everyone and improve our quality of life. I’m proud to be CEO of an organization that helps small businesses grow and flourish here in Mendocino and Lake county and hope you will enjoy the videos and articles we’ll be rolling out this Spring showcasing some of the success stories in our county.
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