Albany SBDC brings in new director

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center has satellite offices in various communities with the purpose of helping business owners stay afloat.

The center serving Albany recently obtained new leadership. Debbie Finney, a native of the Good Life City, started the job last month.

The office's primary objective is to make sure small businesses have a place in the economy. As area director, Finney's responsibilities will be to run the day-to-day operations of the center as well as provide consultation services.

"We do a lot of different things, but our primary reason for being here is to provide consultation to small businesses," she said.

This is a mission that been a statewide effort more than three decades in the making.

"The SBDC was created to help small business owners increase their odds for success," said SBDC State Director Allan Adams. "Our role is to help them (expand) their knowledge base."

Given the economy the way it is, many are looking at the private sector -- which consists primarily of small businesses -- to help keep things going.

"People are looking for means to open a business, but many do not know everything they need to know," Adams said.

Some of the things the office assists with includes counsel on management issues, loans and marketing. They also provide guidance to potential business owners looking to branch out, as well as continuing education.

"We are a good resource for people starting out," Finney said. "We try to offer things business owners need."

Finney spent more than 20 years working with Bennett's Garden Center and Bennett's Home Place. She spent seven years working in medical office management, primarily in Atlanta, before assuming her current position.

Her background experience in multiple aspects of business, including marketing and management, solidifies her confidence to be able to function in her new role.

"I have varied management experience," Finney said. "Because I've had a lot of business experience I feel really prepared. I feel that I'll have something to offer."

The fact that she has done business in Albany specifically also helps her, she said.

"I think another advantage is knowing Albany and the surrounding communities," Finney said. "I feel like we have a lot of unique resources."

The Albany community is unique because of it's focus on small businesses, she said.

"We are really motivated. We have a lot of creative people; we have a lot of potential," Finney said. "Most in our community are geared toward attracting businesses; everyone is working toward the same goal.

"One of the biggest resources we have is small businesses. We have always had people wanting to improve their small business."

Experts say the greatest obstacles small businesses have been facing over the last several months have been a decline in cash flow, difficulty obtaining capital and retention of employees.

"They don't have the cash flow to rely on. If sales drop off, then the business is in trouble," Adams explained. "Businesses are facing pressure."

Banks are more restrictive these days on how they loan money, but that doesn't mean there is no hope for those in need of the financing.

"Businesses actually have the opportunity to grow," Adams said.

The SBDC works with banks throughout the state on a regular basis as part of their effort to help business owners build relationships with lenders, Adams said.

"We can help business owners tailor packages (to obtain lenders)," Adams said. "We help them make the best decision they can make. We don't work for the banks, but we try to stay abreast of where they are."

Since this is a statewide effort, officials in Albany may find themselves putting in phone calls to people in Athens or elsewhere if they run into a situation that can not be solved locally.

"Because we have offices all over the state, we can pull in consultants from all over," Finney said.

Classes on certain subjects, such as financial planning, are held at the center as well as other facilities throughout the area depending on what resources for the course are needed, Finney said.

The new director's plans for the office will be to determine what needs could use some expansion.

"I really do hope to grow," she said. "We have started to get feedback from businesses on resources we need in terms of continuing education.

"My main goal is to reach out to all the communities in the surrounding areas. It's taking time, but I'm enjoying it. We do serve a big area."

On the state level, Adams said his goals are similar.

"We see Albany and Southwest Georgia as a market area," he said. "We are looking for ways to extend outreach."

Overall, Finney said she is excited about her new job.

"I love the job," she said. "I know the potential we have in this area, and it's a great place to live."

The Albany office, one of 17 satellite centers in the state, assists businesses in 27 counties in Southwest Georgia. It is located at 125 Pine Ave., Suite 142, and is the principal provider of services in the region. The office has been in operation since 1978.

For more information on the office's services, call (229) 420-1144.