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Small center brings big assistance to local business owners

Housed in a small building among the many on the Lamar State College Port Arthur campus sits one of the best kept secrets in Southeast Texas.

While the LSPCA Small Business Development Center isn’t new, more than 2,000 businesses and as many jobs came to be with its assistance.

“We help small businesses start and grow, and most importantly stay in business,” said Ana Pereda, who has been the center’s director since her predecessor retired in December.

The SBDC is funded through grants from the Small Business Association and the state of Texas, the latter of which is funneled through LSPCA.

LSCPA Small Business Development Center (Monique Batson/The News)

However, even though they are housed on the college campus, the SBDC is open to anyone in the public. As part of the Gulf Coast Network serving 32 counties, the local office works with businesses in Jefferson, Orange, Newton, Jasper and part of Chambers counties.

Once a client calls the center and schedules an appointment, they meet with Pereda one-on-one.

“We go over a 360-degree analysis of their business and we determine what needs they have, areas of growth, areas of opportunity; and then we create a program of work.”

The no-cost advising and low-cost training provides strategic planning, capital access, sales and marketing, market research, accounting assistance, technology commercialization, financial analysis, strategic planning, and international training.

And for every $1 invested in the LSCPA SBDC, Pereda added, the area receives $11 in capital from clients.

Industries that have benefited from the center span from industrial and construction to retail and restaurant.

In addition to individual consultations, the center provides seminars under a variety of topics — starting a business, managing a business, marketing, money and finance, food and restaurant, technology, procurement.

These seminars cover things like “how to start a business” and “how to manage funds.”

But the SBDC’s ability to train in person was hindered by the pandemic, and adjustments had to be made.

Seminars became free webinars that can be found at any time on the center’s website; and are free to anyone, not just clients from the center

“Helping a client start a business is very rewarding,” Pereda said. “When they are passionate about an idea but need a little guidance and we are able to make it a reality, it’s very rewarding.”

One misconception about the SBDC, however, is that it only helps new businesses come to be.

The center also works with existing businesses that want to expand, or perhaps change ownership.

It also provides disaster preparedness and recovery, helping clients bounce back from the hurricane and tropical storms that have sporadically slammed Southeast Texas since 2005.

With Pereda’s addition to the company, the center is now able to offer something it hadn’t before — bilingual services.

The LSPCA SBDC can be found at 1401 Proctor Street.

To make an appointment, call (409) 984-6531.