SCORE to assist Levy businesses

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By Michael Bates, Citrus County Chronicle

The Citrus County SCORE chapter got the green light this month to expand into Levy County.

That will be a big deal to businesses there because it will have closer representation and no longer have to rely on its distant SCORE affiliate all the way in Gainesville for business assistance, said Jim Green, chairman of the Citrus SCORE.

“We thought it would make more sense for us to do it,” Green said.

Now the work begins, he said, to meet with Levy County civic, community and government leaders to get the word out. That process starts this week.

“We’ve been here for 25 years (in Citrus County), but they don’t know us there,” he said.

Green said he has appointed a Levy County expansion team among his volunteers who will make those contacts.

Green got the OK from the Gainesville chapter for the expansion. Then, on Feb. 1, Citrus County SCORE received a matching grant from SCORE National to cover the cost of expanding its service area to Levy County. The local SCORE put in $1,000 and national contributed $4,000 to cover travel costs, advertising, meetings and other outreach efforts.

If all works out, Levy County would become a branch of Citrus County SCORE in a year or two. Before Citrus County got its own chapter 25 years ago, it had been a branch of the Pasco-Hernando county chapter.

Marc Pompeo, president of the Williston Chamber of Commerce, said he sees no negatives in this initiative and would be willing to work with Green on “getting the word out” about the expansion.

“I think it would definitely be a great service to this area because we have people who do not understand the basics of business and what it takes to start and continue a new business here in a small town,” he said.

Levy County has a population of about 40,000 and is spread out. Cedar Key and Inglis are coastal communities. Chiefland is more inland and Williston is on the extreme east side.

Green said the Levy business community was not getting much “outreach” from Gainesville.

“Since Levy County abuts Citrus County on the north, we felt we could possibly provide SCORE services more efficiently,” according to Green. “Also, the College of Central Florida, who provides our offices and classrooms in Citrus County, recently opened a new Levy County campus in Chiefland. They have graciously agreed to offer similar support to our chapter, should we reach out to Levy County.

“Our ultimate goal is to recruit three to five volunteers who live in Levy County and can represent all parts of the county,” he said. “We will work with these new volunteers to help them to become certified SCORE mentors. We plan to offer some of the same free workshops for entrepreneurs and existing businesses in Levy County that we have provided in Citrus County.”

Green said local volunteers will train their Levy counterparts and “get them up to speed to become certified SCORE mentors.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205, mbates@chronicleonline.com.