April 23, 2008
ATLANTA, April 21, 2008 – East Georgia’s Jefferson County is one of the state’s newest “Entrepreneur Friendly” communities. The designation indicates the community has worked to develop an environment that is welcoming to small business and entrepreneurs. Ninety-one percent of Jefferson County’s 610 companies are small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
“Small businesses and entrepreneurs create the kind of economic activity that is integral to ensuring prosperity and opportunity throughout Georgia,” said Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. “By encouraging and supporting these businesses, we are investing in a stronger future for our communities and the state as a whole.”
Jefferson County is the 97th community in the state to be named Entrepreneur Friendly by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). Previously designated East Georgia counties include Burke, Jenkins and Emanuel. Nearby counties in the process of designation include Washington and Johnson. Screven County received its designation in February.
To earn the designation, Jefferson County completed the Entrepreneur Friendly program with the assistance of GDEcD’s regional representative Adela Kelley. The county analyzed its entrepreneurial and small business environment and developed strategies to help foster the growth of this critical business segment. Jefferson County also underwent a full-day assessment by a review team composed of GDEcD staff and representatives from the Department of Community Affairs, Service Corps of Retired Executives, Small Business Development Center and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners in Jefferson County are now eligible for customized market data, such as demographic and business information, to help give them a competitive edge.
The county is also eligible for an Entrepreneur-Friendly Implementation Fund (EFIF) grant to help it implement specific, long-term programs that support their entrepreneurs and small businesses. The grant must be matched 50 percent in dollars or in-kind value by the community.
”The EF program has been an enlightening experience for the Chamber of Commerce and the community as a whole. Long-standing assumptions about the economic base of Jefferson County were shattered when we realized the impact of small businesses on employment, income and potential growth,” said Lil Easterlin, executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber is committed to using the information gleaned through this initiative to encourage the creativity of our entrepreneurs and to assist in the success of small businesses.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of Georgia communities. By helping entrepreneurs and small businesses grow, we help Georgia grow,” said Heidi Green, chairman of the Georgia Entrepreneur and Small Business Coordinating Network and GDEcD’s deputy commissioner for Global Commerce. “We applaud Jefferson County for incorporating small businesses into its strategic plan for growth.”
The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the state's sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry and small businesses, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia, and promoting the state as a location for film, video and music projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development.