By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
A handful of small businesses owners gathered Wednesday in Helena with Gov. Steve Bullock to celebrate “SBDC Day,” a day recognized nationally by 1,000 small business development centers, including those in Montana.
In fact, the national day of recognition was spearheaded in Montana by Rebecca Ziegler, the marketing and public relations specialist for the state chapter of the Small Business Development Center.
“Last fall, I started this campaign to bring awareness to our program,” Ziegler said. “What you see today is part of a national campaign to get this program off the ground.”
Gathered at a climbing gym, Bullock recognized a number of upstart small businesses across the state, from Chilton Skis in Missoula to the Stonetree Climbing Center in Helena.
Combined with thousands of other small businesses, they represent the backbone of the state’s economy, Bullock said.
“There’s certainly some exciting things happening right now,” Bullock said. “It’s those individual entrepreneurs and businesses that add to the collective whole. We are going in the right direction.”
Since its founding in 1989, the Montana chapter of the SBDC program has assisted more than 29,000 state entrepreneurs and nearly 6,500 businesses. Just this year, Bullock said, the organization has helped launch 73 new businesses and create or retain 616 jobs.
The state’s unemployment rate is now 3.9 percent, the lowest it has been in a decade, Bullock said.
“Montana led the nation in household income growth last year, and we’re seeing more and more economic diversification,” Bullock said. “Part of that is, we have that frontier spirit and folks who are willing to take a risk and move things forward. Part of it also happens because of partnerships that recognize someone with a wild idea shouldn’t just take it alone.”
The SBDC program in Montana has been instrumental in helping new businesses get off the ground – and recognizing those at the leading edge of success. Last week, the organization held its Shark Tank competition, which saw TOMIS, a Missoula software company, take home the $5,000 grand prize.
Bullock recognized March 22 as SBDC Day in Montana.
“Every state in the territory is celebrating the impact small business develop centers have on entrepreneurs and the overall economy,” Bullock said. “Montana spearheaded that national campaign. Anyone with a good idea and a little bit of gumption and willingness to stick it through will take that dream and turn it into a reality.”