Orillia Today, Progress Edition 2014 – The Orillia Area Community Development Corp. (CDC) wants local businesses to succeed. And the federally-funded organization is doing something about it.

Relying on input from the recent business retention and expansion survey and extensive feedback from its broad range of clients, the CDC has developed a comprehensive professional development program that offers a variety of tools for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

“Our Professional Development Program includes three pillars,” said Jacqueline Bayley, who co-ordinates the program.

The first pillar aims to support new enterprises by helping entrepreneurs develop a business start-up plan, understand basic financials and to explore marketing opportunities.

“The idea is to sit down, face to face, and take the time to discuss a person’s business ideas to determine how we can help them achieve their goals,” said Wendy Timpano, the CDC’s general manager. “Through this process, we try to arm people with the tools and information they need to have a successful business.”

The second pillar of support focuses on business excellence training. The CDC offers a series of seminars and training sessions designed to meet specific needs within the local business community. Topics vary and have included human resources, succession planning, customer service, use of  social media  and many other subjects.

“What we do is bring in professional facilitators and host these sessions at various times throughout the year,” said Timpano, noting some are free and some have a nominal $40 fee. “We’re able to do this because we have 15 community partners each offering assistance in a variety of ways like providing refreshments, space, marketing, financial support or some other type of  assistance. They are critical to this program.”

Bayley said the series of seminars has proven popular. “Many small businesses don’t have a lot of money for training so to be able to offer these professional seminars provides real value for our business communities.”

The third component of the CDC’s ambitious program to help local entrepreneurs is its business support initiative, offering strategically-targeted certificate training.

“We offer subsidized specialized training such as first aid  and fork-lift training through our various partnersand research whatever is needed in the local business community to bring that training to the businesses,” said Bayley.

From new businesses to established local landmarks, the CDC is here to help, Timpano said.

“We’re not lawyers or accountants but we offer critical connections with the community,” said Timpano. “We can offer one-on-one coaching, we can refer people to funding programs, we can help with training and professional development … While every business is different and has different needs, we are a good place to start for anyone looking for support for their business.”

In addition to professional support, the CDC also provides much-needed cash for local businesses.

“We manage a portfolio of $4 million that we lend out to clients,” said Timpano, who added the CDC can provide a financial lifeline to enterprises thanks to its flexible pay-back options and its custom business-oriented policies.

“We work closely with and coach hundreds of clients and being able to provide funds is valuable to them,” said Timpano, who noted staff walk applicants through the loan process that can take anywhere from two weeks to several weeks depending on the complexity of the application and the nature of the business. “We are a lender that fills a void in the community.”

In addition to custom business loans, the CDC also offers targeted funding programs. For example, the Peter Street-based organization developed a façade improvement loan program providing up to $10,000 for qualified local businesses to improve the exterior of their business which could include anything from accessibility issues to new signage, paint and/or awnings. They also created a special program for participants and graduates of the Self Employment Assistance program, offering loans of up to $5,000 to help local entrepreneurs launch their ventures.

“For these programs, we offered a more simplified, streamlined application process to make it easy to apply for,” said Timpano. “I’m really looking forward to developing more programs like these … we are always looking for new ideas.”

For more information, you can follow the CDC on Facebook and Twitter or check out its website, orilliacdc.com that features its workshop calendar, webinars, information about funding and an opportunity to subscribe to a monthly newsletter. You can also drop into the office at 22 Peter St. S. or call 705-325-4903.