A group of East Texas elected officials, business leaders and entrepreneurs are making the case to link the efforts of the Small Business Development Center in Longview with the UT-Tyler School of Business there.
In a coalition representing the six counties once served by the SBDC at Kilgore College, representatives are promoting the retention of the center (now linked with Tyler Junior College) and have set a press conference for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at UT Tyler’s Longview University Center.
According to a press release Tuesday, speakers at the event will include Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt and Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor along with Robbie Shoults of Bear Creek Smokehouse (a past recipient of SBDC services) among others.
The Kilgore Chamber of Commerce and Kilgore Economic Development Center are part of the coalition, which includes representatives from cities, counties, economic developers and chambers of commerce in Gregg County, Harrison, Panola, Rusk, Upshur and Marion.
“We’ve implemented a letter-writing campaign supporting UT Tyler’s bid for the SBDC in Longview,” Kilgore Chamber Board Chairman James Murphy told members Tuesday afternoon in the organization’s quarterly BizConnect Luncheon at Meadowbrook Golf & Event Center. “It’s going to be a really great opportunity to allow our small businesses closer representation to them, closer representation in our county.”
According to KEDC Executive Director Amanda Nobles, the effort aims to preserve the identity of the six-counties, as a whole, and the efforts by SBDC to serve the business that operate within them.
“As economic developers and chambers of commerce who also serve different small businesses, we rely on the Small Business Development Center to be a critical part of our small business efforts,” Nobles said, “because they train and counsel; they have the ability to assist people with a business plan that is going to build a solid foundation so a business can grow into the future.
“None of us have the staff or the expertise to step in and supply that need.”
With the departure of Kilgore College SBDC director Brad Bunt and other employees this year, KC administrators chose to leave the North Texas SBDC Network and re-focus the school’s similar, internal education and training efforts on three counties within the college service area (Gregg, Rusk and Upshur).
It marked the end of a relationship of more than 25 years between the local college and center.
“We understand that Tyler Junior College is, in the interim, managing the office of the SBDC in Longview,” Nobles acknowledged, “after Kilgore College was unable to continue its contract with the North Texas SBDC.”
That interim management groups Gregg, Rusk and the other four counties with seven others already being served by the TJC-SBDC.
“We appreciate their willingness to do that,” Nobles said. At the same, she added, the ideal is for the Longview-centric areas to be served by an SBDC focused solely on those six counties: “We feel that it is very important that our six counties remain an SBDC district, so to speak, because of the proximity.”
According to Tuesday’s release, following Thursday’s news conference, the coalition members aim to further define the advantages of UT Tyler-Longview SBDC in a meeting with regional, state and national SBDC representatives.
For more information, contact Nobles at KEDC at 903-984-3522.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Kilgore Chamber of Commerce's Board Chairman, James Murphy. We apologize for the error.