Local center helps small businesses

Posted: Sunday, November 07, 2004

Linda Williams was able to buy Spruce Meadow RV Park, and may get a low-interest loan to help grow the business, thanks to the Juneau Small Business Development Center.

"The success of the park is due in large part to the people who donated their time, energy and talent," Williams said Friday.

Jackie Stewart, director of the Juneau SBDC, is top on the list of people who helped make her a success, Williams said.

Stewart was the main speaker Friday at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon in which she gave the center's 2004 fiscal report and talked about successes.

SBDC is designed to help small businesses grow and prosper. About 97 percent of businesses in Alaska are small, meaning they generate less than $10 million in sales annually.

Williams and her now-deceased husband, Anthony, first moved to Juneau in 1987 from Idaho. They were driving to church one day and she told him Juneau needed a good recreational vehicle park.

"I had no clue that he took me seriously," Williams said.

Several years went by and the Williamses and another couple bought 12.5 acres for the year-round park off Mendenhall Loop Road in the Valley.

Williams, seeking financing, met Stewart for the first time in August 2001. Meanwhile, Williams bought out the other couple in April 2002. At the time, she went to Stewart for help in taking over the business and receiving financing. That fall they worked on a business plan.

This fall, Williams returned to Stewart to refigure financial projections and obtain a lower-interest business loan.

Occupancy at the RV park has jumped from 45 percent to 90 percent, and now Williams hopes to build a lodge in several years. It will feature a recreation room, kitchen, offices and restrooms, and could be rented for parties.

"We've got neat residents," Williams said. "The people living in that park - they're not tenants, they're family."

Williams is one of 171 clients in Southeast the SBDC helped in 2004, Stewart said.

It also provided 32 business training workshops and helped create 49 new jobs, she said. The center also helped create 17 new businesses and assist 10 in obtaining $2.2 million in financing.

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