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Small business center offers webinars

CLARKDALE — Wednesday, July 15, Clint Kaasa’s voice was the first one to be heard during a webinar about a federal funding stream, but it would be followed by the voices of others.

Kaasa, who works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Development division, led a Zoom-style presentation July 15 about newly publicized USDA COVID-19 Business & Industry CARES Act Program funding.

It’s the latest in a series of webinars for business owners set up by Yavapai College’s Small Business Development Center.

The lender-driven Business & Industry program is a pool of $1 billion in loan funds, meant to help with business acquisitions, construction, conversion, expansion, repair, modernization and development. In other words, most of the major one-time expenses a business could incur.

Jeri Denniston, the director of the SBDC, said the center has already fielded inquiries from many Verde Valley business owners about the federal government’s two best-known COVID-19 business relief programs.

Not only has much of the funding for both the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans been depleted, but most businesses have already learned what they qualify for, at this point.

“I think the PPP is winding down,” Denniston said. “There is still $130-plus billion available; applications have slowed to a trickle.”

Denniston said the focus has shifted to opportunities such as the USDA Business & Industry guaranteed loan program.

“B & I would be a great, new focus for local businesses,” Denniston said, adding that almost 100 people had registered for the July 15 webinar by the day before it first aired.

The webinars, which are free to the public, can be accessed by signing up on the SBDC’s page on yc.edu.

Kaasa, who has worked for USDA for more than 30 years, is a program specialist for Arizona’s Business and Cooperative Programs. During the July 15 webinar on the Business & Industry loan program, he described its normal limitations and how COVID-19 has changed things.

“At this time next year, if money starts running out, we might start using a scoresheet system, but for now, it’s first-come, first-serve,” Kaasa said.

Denniston said the webinars often include people involved with different facets of a business-aid program. For example, in the July 15 webinar included Kaasa, as well as Gary Mack, Director of Rural Business Development at the USDA; Leticia Scearce, a senior vice president of Canyon Community Bank and Jordan Blanchard, an executive vice president of Live Oak Bank.

The Small Business Development Center has many types of online resources for businesses. Contact Denniston at jeri.denniston@yc.edu or 928-771-4801 with questions. Meeting in person with staff is done by appointment only, so making contact by phone or email first is essential.

You can also search for the Small Business Development Center on the college’s website, yc.edu.

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