April 22, 2024
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Bailey County Electric Cooperative and the Muleshoe Chamber of Commerce hosted a Program Kickoff Event last week to introduce the Northwest Texas Rural Business Opportunity Program.

According to Brandy Reed, Business Field Advisor from Texas Tech University, the grant program, specific to Bailey, Lamb, Parmer and Castro counties, exists to increase business opportunities in rural communities. It is made possible in part by cooperation between United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Texas Tech University Institute for Small Business.

“We don’t offer grant money to the businesses. Instead, we perform small business assistance and training in the counties using the money that we were awarded,” Reed explained.

A 2019 survey from the Office of the Governor showed that a large percentage of rural respondents didn’t know what kinds of services were available.

“We actually quoted part of the study in our grant application,” Reed said. “We wanted rural businesses to be able to access the programs and learn what was available.”

According to the program’s brochure, “The Northwest Texas Rural Business Opportunity Program is designed to offer business development counseling, industry research and workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners at NO COST to them. This program brings the services DIRECTLY to the targeted communities. The overall purpose of the program is to stimulate the economy and support jobs in these small, rural communities.”

“We have 12 months to do the work – that’s a very short period of time. I will be coming out to work with small businesses, and the time is now for particular training and connections to resources,” Reed said.

The first session will offer in-person Quickbooks Online training.

“We’ll be in Muleshoe to do the training free of charge. It usually costs around $150,” Reed said. “We’ll be using software for Quickbooks Online, not for the desktop.”

Sessions are planned under the topic headings of Starting a New Business, Managing a Business, and Expanding a Business.

One of the subheadings under Starting a New Business is Legal Issues.

“We don’t actually give legal advice, but we can give you details and help you understand the different levels, explaining sole proprietorship, LLC and corporations,” Reed said. “Different liabilities and protection go along with each different entity.”

An in-demand topic under Managing a Business is Social Media/E-Commerce.

“A trainer will come out and work with you individually so that you can present your business the way that you want to,” Reed said. “We did it last year in three counties. They liked it and said they got a lot out of it.”

In 2021-2022, a Rural Business Development Program grant was awarded for the counties of Floyd, Crosby and Dickens.

“We applied for a different grant, another grant for counties to the south. It’s very rare for the same organizations to get two grants back-to-back to be offered to different areas. We’ve added some programming to what we did previously,” Reed said.

Having grown up in Morton, Reed comes from a rural background.

“I’ve worked for and I’ve owned small businesses, so I understand a lot of issues, including the loneliness involved,” Reed said. “We want to let them know that they’re not alone, that a whole lot of people are willing to help them.”

At the Kickoff Event, someone came up with a metaphor for what Reed does.

“Let Brandy be the hub. We’re all spokes, so let them know what you need, what kind of issues you’re facing, and she’ll help connect you.”

“I would love to serve the small rural businesses,” Reed said. “We’ll try to find the resident expert for what you need, whether it be state, national or local resources.”

If your community is located in Bailey, Lamb, Parmer or Castro counties, contact brandy.reed@ttu.edu for more information on program initiatives for rural small businesses for 2023-2024.

This is an Equal Opportunity program. Discrimination is prohibited by Federal Law. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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