Since my selection by the SBA as the small business person of the year for Oregon, I have asked myself, why should the president of such a small company be selected for this honor? I have been fortunate to live in as intellectually active an area as Newport, Oregon. In some ways, Newport is no different than other regions affected by the downturn in the economy. By the time I arrived here in 2007, our local economy had already suffered from the loss of the timber industry and reductions in its fishing industry. Then the downturn in the economy came causing additional reductions in our tourism industry. But a region is more than its economic statistics. Our region, which we call the Yaquina Bay region comprising the towns of Toledo and Newport, on the central Oregon coast, boasts the largest fishing fleet between Seattle and San Francisco. It is also home to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, which includes Oregon State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the US National Fisheries Service, and various other departments and agencies with ties to the ocean. The Yaquina Bay region also hosts the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Newport Performing Arts Center and Visual Arts Center, and numerous art galleries, glass shops, and boutiques. We even have our own symphony orchestra!

So back to the original question, why should I have been selected? Well, let me tell you a bit about what I do, and you will learn a lot about this region, and perhaps get an inkling behind the opportunity for business development in this little part of Oregon.

I came to Newport in February 2007, and started consulting for a government client on GPS policy matters. Not bad work for one individual, but it can get mighty lonely. Not long after that I met Guy Faust, director of the Small Business Development Center. I was interested in working with the SBDC based on my excellent experience with SCORE years before in Colorado Springs. Guy put me in touch with Ron Spisso, an SBDC advisor who ran a multi-year Small Business Management course. I signed up for the two year SBM program, which included two hours per month of one on one mentoring. Ron suggested I join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend its meetings. Each week the Chamber has a luncheon, with a different speaker from the community. It did not take me long to realize that by attending the Chamber luncheons once a week, within a year I would have heard from every major player in the community. In the fall, I learned of a class entitled Leadership Lincoln, combining lecture and workshop formats and taught by area resident John Baker, who gave local leaders everything they needed to know about how Lincoln County operated, from the hospital to the school district to the government agencies and the court system.

After getting my business going in Newport, I spoke with my business mentor Ron Spisso about the need for a local technology group in the county. Such a group could support local businesses such as mine, and provide networking opportunities and connections to the many groups active in the area. So Ron connected me up with several other technology leaders, such as Curt Abbott (programmer), Misty Lambrecht (web site developer), Greg Scott (former dean of OSU business school), and Paul Lucas (local entrepreneur in voice response technology). We formed the Lincoln County Technology Solutions Alliance, and began to hold public meetings on technology topics of interest and involved area high schools students. As chair for this group, I was invited to join the Yaquina Bay Economic Foundation, a group of business and government leaders who support economic development activities in the region. The beneficial effect of the YBEF has been immense, creating our community college and our Aquarium (rated one of the top ten in the nation). It was not long after joining, I asked the group to support an initiative to make technology development a priority for our region. To date the LCTSA has held or sponsored over 15 public meetings on technology ranging from business focus (web site optimization, use of social media, and communications security) to technology focus (wave energy technology, smart grid program for electrical power, navigation aids at the airport, ). We have also had student groups give presentations on their work in robotics, video technology, and computer numerically controlled machines.

As I got involved in all these groups, I learned about issues facing our region and the coast we live on. I attended meetings conducted by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, Oregon Sea Grant, Ocean Policy Advisory Council, and lectures on the ocean at Hatfield Marine Science Center. And I began to think there were problems needing solving that my little company could take on. Like any small company, we submitted many proposals and got many rejections. But we learned from our mistakes and began to bid on work that was accepted. An infrastructure assessment on wave energy development in Oregon. An information kiosk for Oregon albacore tuna. A database to hold fish catch and genetic data for Oregon salmon. A fish catch traceability system for the Gulf of Mexico. We worked hard and provided quality products and services, and before you know it, we developed a reputation as a company that understands client needs and provides effective technical solutions. Each year sales have increased and we have hired employees. I’ve been proud to offer family wage jobs with full benefits, – paid time off and health care.

So how is it that I have reached this point in developing our small business? It is through engaging with my community, taking advantage of all it has to offer, and helping to improve not just my company, but the community at large. So here is a list of those organizations that have contributed to my company’s success.

  • Small Business Development Center
    • Provided classes for me and my employees, including small business management, QuickBooks training, accounting
  • Small Business Management program
    • Provided counseling and guidance on growing my business from a consulting company of one to a thriving company employing many
  • Chamber of Commerce
    • Weekly lunches provide speakers from throughout county have taught me about every part of the community where we work
  • Leadership Lincoln
    • Provided networking experiences with business and government leaders in the community
  • Lincoln County Technology Solutions Alliance
    • Fostered an understanding and use of technology in our region and supporting networking among technology professionals
  • Yaquina Bay Economic Foundation
    • Provided a venue to tap into the vision and leadership of area leaders, and encourage collaboration and unified action to help our region.

Many people focus only on developing their own business in an effort to make it profitable. The approach I have taken and which I recommend to others is to also work to make the community successful, and then both the community and business will be successful. This has been a most successful approach for me.

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