About a month ago the Greater Washington Business Center conducted a survey of 147 small and minority businesses in the Washington area. The results were very disturbing to William Jameson, president of the center.
A majority of those companies -- 133 -- said they were having problems related to inflation: 137 had laid off employes and 136 could not obtain loans due to high interest rates.
Jameson decided something needed to be done quickly. "We called a meeting with several local bankers and with the Small Business Administration and tried to work out a program to see if we could assist these businesses before they got into the default category," he said. That meeting is just the first step in what Jameson hpes will be a program of cooperation between area banks and small businesses.
"We need to recognize what we have and prepare a program to address it and not continue with business as usual," he said.
Jameson admits that the current economic climate is not conductive to starting a new business. On the other hand, he says that "we are seeing a more sophisticated class of entrepreneur which has a better idea of what they want to do." More and more small and minority business persons are entering the lucrative professional services field which Jameson says can withstand the impact of a recession better than a retail operation.
The Greater Washington Business Center was established in 1975, the result of a merger of six separate organizations involved with business development and assistance in Washington. It was the first such center in the country. Jameson calls it a "one-stop" center, providing a full range of services free to new and existing businesses. Those services include marketing and procurement programs, loan packaging and construction contractor assistance.
Major funding comes in the form of grants from the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency and other agencies like the D. C. Department of Transportation. The center helps identify and certify minority firms so they can bid on contracts.
Since its formation, the center has obtained approved loans of more than $30 million and assisted companies in getting about $300 million in procurement contracts. About 1,200 applicants a year come to their offices at 1705 DeSales St. NW -- a few just to get the facts of life about starting a business. Some of the businesses that have benefited from the center's work include Dave Brown Chevrolet, McLaughlin Oldsmobile and Sheldon Supermarket.
Jameson joined the center as executive vice president for operations and became president in 1977.He was formerly executive director of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity and in charge of their Washington office.