Albany’s Business Climate: Small business opportunities

KK Snyder

Friday, April 16th, 2010

It’s business as usual in the Good Life City, and chamber executives are busy planning new opportunities to assist their 1,200 members – and potential new members – with issues including health care reform and small business upstart. The Albany area is experiencing an increase in the number of small businesses being started, primarily as a result of job loss, said a chamber executive this week. Catherine Glover, president/CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, says layoffs and high unemployment rates have pushed some to get creative in terms of making a living.

“We’re really seeing small businesses and cottage industries looking for storefronts,” said Glover, adding that upstart business owners are coming out of their garages and home offices in search of better exposure. “It’s due in no small part to layoffs. People have started brainstorming and the entrepreneurial spirit is coming out.”

To assist would-be and new small business owners in these efforts, the chamber is opening a Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) office, the first of its kind anywhere in this region, said Glover. A federal program funded by the Small Business Administration, SCORE will assist the local Small Business Development Center by providing free counseling and guidance for those interested in starting a business.

Founded in 1964, SCORE is headquartered in Herndon, VA and Washington, DC and has 364 chapters throughout the United States and its territories, with 12,400 volunteers nationwide. Both working and retired executives and business owners donate time and expertise as business counselors.

Leland Burkhart is the first counselor with the Albany SCORE office and the chamber plans to train as many counselors as they can over the next year to be able to provide the service to as many people as possible, Glover said. Assistance will include helping entrepreneurs develop business and marketing plans, among other services.

Eighty-five percent of the businesses the chamber helps are small businesses, so chamber staff constantly seek ways to help their members, said Glover, including the current hot topic of health care reform. The chamber is planning a “nuts and bolts” seminar regarding the issue on May 4 at the Welcome Center.

“It’s a moving target,” she said, regarding the health care issue. “There are certain definitive guidelines put forward in the bill, but besides that there are a lot of negotiations behind the scenes. Until it is set in stone it’s difficult to take a pulse.”

Glover added that any time a small business is mandated to buy into something set by the federal government, it puts a burden on that business.

“The role of the chamber is to be the voice for business. It’s definitely something our membership is concerned about and how it will impact their businesses,” she said, adding that the event is open to all area businesses, whether they are members of the chamber or not. However, all participants must call the chamber to register for the event.

Also on the chamber’s plate are ongoing lobbying efforts to create a better business environment in the Albany area. Wendy Martin, the chamber’s full-time paid lobbyist, continues to work with legislature on regulatory reform to make it easier to do business in the state. She’s also addressing the issues on a federal level, said Glover.

For more information about the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce or to register for the health care reform seminar, call (229) 434-8700 or visit them online at For more information about SCORE, visit