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Event at VGCC helps fuel growth for local small businesses

Representatives of area businesses and non-profit organizations gathered in the Vance-Granville Community College Civic Center on Oct. 21 for the Small Business Summit and Expo, organized by the VGCC Small Business Center in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce .


The event, entitled “Fueling Small Business Growth,” featured guest speakers, discussions and opportunities for local entrepreneurs and business leaders to network with one another.


The keynote speaker was Rick Burtner, president and CEO of Propel GPS, a technology company based in Henderson and in Reston, Virginia. A “serial entrepreneur” who has helped start several businesses, Burtner described how Propel GPS has grown since its founding in 2012. He emphasized the need for new organizations “to find out what your purpose and objective is, and then find teaming partners to help you.” Burtner said that VGCC has been one of his partners. He serves on the college’s Computer Education advisory committee, and his company provides internships for VGCC students. Burtner pointed out that one of the representatives of Propel GPS at the event was Justin Graley, a VGCC Web Technologies graduate. “We are a big believer in supporting the community,” Burtner said of his company. “We help students and vice versa, because we get their eagerness and their knowledge, while we also develop future entrepreneurs.”


Following Burtner’s presentation, attendees chose from among several breakout sessions on different topics. These included “Strategies for Encouraging Small Business Investment: Public-Private Partnerships in North Carolina,” presented by Oxford City Manager Randy Hemann; a discussion on state taxes for small businesses with Rhonda High, customer education officer from the N.C. Department of Revenue; and “Social Media Marketing Your Business,” presented by Melanie Diehl, owner of “Your Social Media Gal”; “Strategies for Seeking Grant Funding through Corporate Foundations,” with presenter Tanya Evans, district manager for Duke Energy; “Low-Cost Marketing Ideas” with Alyssa Mako, assistant director of The Women’s Business Center of North Carolina; and a discussion of health insurance and the Affordable Care Act by Pat Olmert of Watkins Insurance Agency and David C. Smith of EbenConcepts.


Between breakout sessions, attendees browsed through booths set up by representatives of various resources for small businesses. These included the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County, the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, Propel GPS, LLC, NC Rural Economic Development Center, the VGCC Small Business Center, the City of Oxford, Your Social Media Gal, N.C. Department of Revenue, N.C. Department of Commerce – Division of Workforce Solutions, NC REAL, Watkins Insurance Agency, the N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development, and The Women’s Business Center.


In addition to the two Chambers of Commerce, the Small Business Summit/Expo was supported by Express Employment Professionals of Oxford, The Daily Dispatch, The Warren Record and the Oxford Public Ledger.


For more information about the services provided by the Small Business Center, call Tanya Weary at (252) 738-3240 or e-mail her at smallbusiness@vgcc.edu .     


Above:  From left, Richard “Rick” Burtner, president and CEO of Propel GPS, talks with Janet Meyer of Oxford, owner of “A Sharper Shear” and a Small Business Summit/Expo attendee. (VGCC photo)