Second Roundtable Reveals Small Business Challenges

Bright and early on Jan. 11, Bob Schaller, Director of St. Mary's County Dept. of Economic and Community Development and staff invited small independent business owners to congregate at Lenny’s. Over a hundred turned out. The DECD was joined by many local government officials interested in the small business community of St. Mary’s County.  Attendance swelled and more chairs were brought in to seat guests that ranged from minority, women-owned independent companies to reps from NAVAIR and SMECO.

A survey collected at the November meeting revealed marketing as the top concern for these businesses, followed by keeping a qualified workforce and finance issues.

Schaller told the crowd his idea to launch a “Buy Local, But St. Mary’s” campaign similar to one found in Rockville, sharing the many superb small businesses in our unique geographic location with customers, both local and visiting.  Getting a jump start on the concept, SMC’s Tourism and Blue Wind Gourmet owner Rob Plant announced plans to hold a restaurant week encouraging diners to check out local, fresh eats.

DECD’s Hans Welch suggested networking within the group as a great way to support the ‘keep it local’ mentality and said he’s heading up a construction industry group to address the struggles encountered by builders and contractors in the weakened economy.  

Reps from resources that offer loan guarantee and counseling programs were on hand to offer their support. Owner of Lenny’s, Sleep Inn and D.B. McMillan’s, Dan Rebarchick said, “Service is what we have that beats the big boxes.” Many business owners shared that they garnered good business over the holiday season, with customers expressing the desire to shop locally and a willingness to seek out these small businesses for their superior customer service.

The group was asked to consider lending their expertise to help meet group goals and the next roundtable was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 8. Schaller told, “Competition makes us stronger,” adding, “this morning's attendance reinforces the need to bring people together and work on common solutions.” 

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