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County May Seek Help for Small Firms : Economy: Personnel director will ask supervisors today to apply for a state grant to fund an entrepreneur academy for 300 area business owners.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Moving to help local employers weather the persistent recession, Ventura County officials want to sponsor an entrepreneur academy for small businesses.

County Personnel Director Ronald Komers will ask the Board of Supervisors today to apply for a $271,800 state grant to fund the academy next year.

At a time when 5,100 jobs have been lost in the county, Komers said the county must take steps to encourage and nurture area business.

“The county can help stimulate growth and transform this new age of the entrepreneur into an age of opportunity,” Komers said.

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If the funding is approved by the state, the county would set up a program to train 300 owners of small businesses over 15 months. Some of the classes would include marketing and management seminars and strategic planning workshops.

Supervisors Maggie Kildee and Vicky Howard praised the proposal, saying classes could give the small employers the knowledge they need to stay in business.

“It may give them an added shot in the arm,” Howard said. “A lot of times people have great ideas but they just can’t quite get it together because they don’t have the business experience or expertise.”

Added Kildee: “It takes a partnership.”

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Under Komers’ proposal, the county would apply to the California Employment Training Panel for the money to run the academy. The state panel, which disburses money collected through the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund, has been funding training programs to increase business production and competitiveness since 1983, Komers said.

He said about $102 million in training funds was available through the state panel last year. Komers said county officials approached state officials in June to informally pitch the idea of forming an academy. He said they were told that the panel would consider the proposal.

If the program is funded, Komers said the county will work with area educators and business leaders to avoid duplicating classes already offered at area community colleges.

“One goal is to help local businesses grow and expand,” Komers said. “It will help the businesses get the kind of training they need, hopefully to increase employment.”

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He said the cities of Los Angeles and Lynwood already offer similar programs as part of their employment development efforts.

Marc Charney, president of the Ventura County Economic Development Assn., called the county’s plan a “positive step” for local business.

“Eighty percent of small businesses fail within the first two years,” Charney said. “They need a lot of nurturing and care.”


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