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KSBDC, Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offices to advise businesses during pandemic


By Carol Lea Spence
University of Kentucky

If there’s a direct pipeline in Kentucky’s counties for the transmission of research-based, pertinent information to the people who need it, it’s Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Recognizing the ties extension agents have to their communities, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center is working closely with county extension offices during the pandemic crisis to relay critical information to small businesses around the state.

“In many ways, Cooperative Extension is a touchstone for all 120 counties in the state. Agents are very connected to their communities, so small businesses have been coming to them with questions,” said Kristina Joyce, state director of KSBDC. “We thought it would be helpful if our group shared what we know and provide small business information that the agents can, in turn, share. I think it’s going to be a great partnership, a great collaborative effort.”

The Kentucky Small Business Development Center is working closely with county extension offices during the pandemic. (Photo by tumsasedgars iStock/Getty Images Plus via UK)

KSBDC will share continual updates with extension agents, who will push that information out to local businesses and help spread the word about the resources and help available through KSBDC.

“We’re in a health crisis right now,” said Laura Stephenson, associate dean for extension in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We’re facing the social and mental health aspects of the pandemic now, but we’re seeing the economic health piece come into play, too.

“Allowing us to be part of that information flow is going to be critical to connect small businesses with resources they might not have been aware existed.”

Judi O’Bryan, Laurel County family and consumer sciences extension agent, has sat on a number of local boards and comes from a family of small-business owners, so she has a good sense of how hard London’s businesses have been hit by the pandemic.

“A lot of our small businesses weren’t prepared for this type of situation, so it’s been a real struggle for them. I think there’s a lot of concern about what it’s going to look like when we can get back out; who’s going to even be able to stay open. It’s kind of scary,” she said.

O’Bryan attended KSBDC’s first webinar for agents in April. She felt it was her duty to stay up-to-date to respond to any requests that might come to her office from local business owners.

“A lot of what we do at the extension office is to keep people informed about what’s going on in the community and what can be done to help people,” she said. “We’re kind of like a 411 service. If you don’t know who to call, you call the extension office, and either we help you or we’re able to send you to somebody who can.”

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Rodney Kuhl is one of those people to whom O’Bryan can send folks. Kuhl is one of KSBDC’s 17 coaches stationed around the state. He and his fellow coaches have been busy advising and educating business owners about the types of documentation they need to be able to apply for the funding available through the Paycheck Protection Program.

The PPP is a Small Business Administration loan designed to help small businesses, self-employed workers and sole proprietors, among others, keep wages flowing during closures brought on by the pandemic. The loan program is part of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“Besides helping them understand that, our core work in the Kentucky Small Business Development Center is helping entrepreneurs get their businesses started and providing existing businesses with the help they need to be successful,” Kuhl said. “We can help with business planning and financial forecasting. We’ll help with research in their particular industry, and we can also provide data as to population and income information in the communities where they are planning to start their business.”

O’Bryan said that extension shines when it comes to getting information to the people who need it.

“My best advice I would give people is watch where you’re getting your information. The information that extension gives out is research-based. The information is accurate, and we know how to get it to people,” she said.

For more information about the Kentucky Small Business Development Center or to arrange for a meeting at a local office, visit their website at www.ksbdc.org or contact the local county office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.


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