Regional council focuses on advisers

PARKERSBURG – The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council is looking to connect local entrepreneurs with retired and experienced advisers.

The council, which supports economic development activities in eight counties in the region, is partnering with the S.C.O.R.E. chapter from Charleston with an eye toward forming its own group in the region. The national program, whose name stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives, links mentors from various business sectors with small businesses that can benefit from their advice and experience.

It was the main topic covered by regional council executive director Carol Jackson Monday when she addressed the Parkersburg Rotary Club during its weekly meeting at the Blennerhassett Hotel.

“I need volunteers,” she said. “If you’ve run your own business, such as accounting or marketing, we could really use your help.”

Jackson noted that although the “R” in score stands for retired, that’s not a prerequisite for being a mentor in the program. She said she wants to develop a Rolodex of contacts to send prospective business owners to when they need advice on various topics.

Among the services the regional council offers are loans to help businesses get started or expand. One of the requirements is a business plan, but some folks starting out don’t know how to prepare such a document, Jackson said.

“A lot of people, when they hear ‘business plan,’ it’s just a deer-in-a-headlight look,” she said.

That’s just one area where an experienced mentor could provide assistance.

Space for S.C.O.R.E. advising and workshops has been set aside at the regional council’s downtown Parkersburg offices. Participants are not paid for their services, but they can be reimbursed for mileage and materials.

Jackson said the council hopes to have an open house in May or June to introduce the program and see what topics people want to learn about.

Rotary Club program chairwoman Kim Couch said the new program was one of the reasons she invited Jackson to speak.

“There are plenty of people here who could not only volunteer to help out but would also be interested in hearing what’s going on at the council level,” Couch said.

Jackson also discussed the services the council offers, including assisting with grant-writing and administration of infrastructure projects, studying traffic needs and offering service activities for senior citizens, like the foster grandparent, retired senior volunteer and senior companion programs.

Asked by one Rotarian whether the council’s loans are direct or guaranteed, Jackson said they were currently direct. However, the council is looking at expanding its options with the economic activity anticipated as a result of the oil and gas industry, including a potential ethane cracker plant.

“We hope some of the smaller service industries that follow that will be start-ups,” she said.