Two Chattanooga-area small business advisory operations have received a combined $378,000 in federal grants that will help them to hire at least five new counselors to advise area entrepreneurs.
The Chattanooga Tennessee Small Business Development Center, headed by Leo LeBlanc, received a $198,000 two-year grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the state of Tennessee. A similar center at Cleveland State Community College received $180,000 for the same period.
Together, the two organizations have helped create hundreds of jobs and helped secure millions in loans for young companies in the Chattanooga-Cleveland corridor.
LeBlanc said the additional cash will "allow us to go out and also to continue to support our clients not only in Hamilton County but in outlying areas too."
Chattanooga received one of the larger grants available under the federal Small Business Jobs Act, due to "the outreach and high-quality counseling we've already shown in the community," LeBlanc said.
He's already hired one new counselor with the money, and has plans to hire one more.
In Cleveland, Jennie DeCook said the grant has already resulted in the hiring of three new counselors, who will primarily work to cultivate entrepreneurship in outlying areas.
"We're very fortunate to be in Chattanooga and Cleveland because this I-75 corridor is exploding," said Brenda Sheehy, director of the Cleveland Tennessee Small Business Development Center.
In fact, the Cleveland and Chattanooga centers are running neck and neck as the third- and fourth-busiest counseling centers for entrepreneurs in the state, respectively, behind Knoxville, first, and Memphis, second.
Statewide, there are 16 Tennessee Small Business Development Centers sponsored by nearby universities and chambers of commerce, LeBlanc said.
"We're helping to grow the small business community, to grow employees and grow jobs," he said.