In the next few weeks, our area will celebrate two nationally recognized weeks that celebrate small businesses and the quality jobs they create. National Small Business Week 2018 kicks off at the end of this month with an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. where national award winners will be recognized and awarded for their achievements.
National Small Business Week is held from April 29 to May 5 and is an annual event hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration to recognize the nation's top small businesses, entrepreneurs, and champions. Every day they're working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America's global competitiveness. In Douglas County, there are approximately 1,400 companies that have created over 19,000 jobs. Two thirds of that labor come from within the county, with the remaining labor coming from surrounding counties. Our county is a net importer of labor, meaning we bring more labor into our county than we send out.
Following that week of appreciation, National Economic Development Week kicks off from May 7-12. National Economic Development Week was created by the International Economic Development Council in 2016 to increase awareness of local programs that create jobs, advance career development opportunities and increase the quality of life. The first campaign was held in conjunction with IEDC's 90th anniversary, and over the span of two years, more than 450 campaigns have been created throughout the U.S. and Canada, creating millions of impressions, hundreds of news stories, events and many more activities.
Starting a small business is not easy, and there are stumbling blocks that entrepreneurs need to overcome in that journey. Through my work with economic development, I have been exposed to a vast number of programs and policies that aid in the creation, retention and expansion of jobs; the development of a stable tax base; and the enhancement of wealth.
Often, one of those blockades is access to capital. Many entrepreneurs need capital to start or expand their small business, combining what they have with other sources of financing. The AAEDC has a Revolving Loan Fund Program that supplies small businesses and entrepreneurs with the gap financing needed to start or expand their business. Revolving Loan Funds have become an increasingly popular business-financing tool because of the ability to leverage public and private dollars, as well as the bonus of recycling these funds within a community. As the RLF receives the principal and interest from outstanding loans, the money is made available to another borrower. RLF funds are available to businesses within Douglas County, and loans can be made up to $75,000 through our office.
There are a variety of activities that our office performs in Douglas County to ensure positive economic development. Our tools involve site selection for developers, workforce development, infrastructure and business finance, attraction, expansion and retention, community development and many more. If you have a business idea or question, or any questions about the area, please contact our office at 320-763-4545. Our services are free and confidential, and we would love to help you in your entrepreneurial journey.
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Nicole Fernholz is the director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.