Ashley Archibald, The Union Democrat

The Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority opened the doors to its Small Business Development Center on Friday.

The center, located in the TCEDA offices on North Washington Street, will provide private meeting and conference space to its Business Alliance partners to provide counseling and services to small-business owners.

The move will allow counselors from the two partners - the Small Business Development Center and the Service Corps of Retired Executives - to meet privately with business owners to discuss confidential plans.

"It creates one location for counselors to meet," said TCEDA Executive

Director Larry Cope. "They can talk about their business plans and how

to line up financing with better privacy."

In 2010, the 13 SCORE counselors and four SBDC business consultants met with 350 small-business clients in Tuolumne County.

With the new Small Business Center, the counselors and their

clients will have access to free phone, computer and wireless internet


The center is outfitted with 10 laptop computers and business software bought with a $10,000 contribution from AT&T.

Two loan packagers with the county's Revolving Loan Fund will also use the center to connect with small businesses.

The space the center now occupies was used in 2010 as an "incubator

space," meaning that fledgling businesses had an opportunity to work

out of the back office to get their operations running without the

added cost of rent.

Now, Cope said, the TCEDA is working to create a virtual incubator

space by partnering with local landlords to get a reduced rent for the

first years of a business's operation.

"That's the next phase of this project," Cope said.

Small businesses interested in making an appointment with

counselors can do so by visiting the Business Alliance website at

Contact Ashley Archibald at or 588-4526.