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SCORE officially opens its doors

Photo by Terry Lewis

Photo by Terry Lewis

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Service Corps of Retired Executives officially cut the ribbon to its new office at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Friday, with a stated goal of helping guide new and existing small businesses through the world of commerce.

The retired volunteers of SCORE serve as counselors and mentors to America's small business owners, helping educate them on how to get established and how to grow.

"We currently have four certified counselors and are waiting to get three more certified," volunteer SCORE Director Leland Burkart said. "Our office will be open three days a week from 9 a.m. to noon.

We really don't know how many mentors we'll wind up with, but a good guess would be around 40."

For the moment, the fledgling Albany office will operate under the tutelage of the Columbus SCORE chapter. Eventually the local branch will become an independent chapter.

"What we're hoping to do in establishing a SCORE chapter in Albany is find enough volunteers to meet the demands of businesses in the area that are looking for a little guidance," Burkart said. "We're starting to make contact with some of the organizations where we expect to find our volunteers.

"While we're getting things started, we'll be under the wing of the Columbus SCORE chapter. They're going to serve as our mentors."

Fay Anderson, who serves as chair of the Columbus chapter, said she thinks the Albany Branch will be a fully functioning chapter within a year, possibly earlier.

"The key will be bringing in new mentors and in cooperation with the SBC, SBA and the chamber," Anderson said. "It will be important to have a variety of mentors with different skills so they can be mixed and matched to the needs of the clients.

"The idea is to get new and start-up businesses more prepared for the business world and to connect them with the resources that will enable them to be successful. It's really an ongoing process."

Founded in 1964 as a partner resource of the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE volunteers have donated more than one million hours of face-to-face counseling services to thousands of small business owners.

There are currently 12,400 SCORE volunteers who are a part of 364 chapters nationwide. They deliver more than 501,000 services annually.

"We surveyed our membership, the majority of whom are small business owners, and time and again entrepreneurial growth was mentioned as one of the greatest needs," Chamber President/CEO Catherine Glover said. "We followed up with research that showed a need for the counseling-related services that are provided free of charge by SCORE volunteers.

"We're confident this organization will become a key component in the Chamber's ongoing efforts to help small businesses in this area not only survive but thrive."

Businesses wishing to take advantage of SCORE's free services should contact Burkart at the chamber at (229) 434-8700.