Small Business Development Center topic of chamber luncheon

David Peck

The Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network and what the organization can do for small businesses was the featured topic at the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon Monday at the Mustang Café.

SBDC regional directors Devan Costa-Cargill, who covers Big Horn, Park, Washakie and Hot Springs counties, was the featured speaker and told the membership about some of the programming available.

Along with her regional duties, Costa-Cargill serves the state in the area of licensing and permitting, she said, helping businesses relocate and operate legally in Wyoming.

She said in a follow-up interview that she came to the SBDC with a background in human resources management, specifically leadership, adding that one of the things she enjoys is helping businesses manage their staff more effectively, adding, “That’s one of my passions.”

Costa-Cargill has a master’s degree in business and is working on a PhD. She moved to Wyoming from the Central Valley of California, growing up on a cattle ranch near the town of Stevinson, Calif., which she said is about the size of Meeteetse.

She moved to Wyoming about two years ago, taking the place of the retiring SBDC director Bruce Morse, and lives in Cowley. Prior to moving to Wyoming, she worked for Northern California SBDC for about a year and a half.

Programs she highlighted at the chamber meeting included a pair of workforce development programs she said have been extremely successful. One is an internship or licensed apprenticeship wage reimbursement program, she said, noting, “The goal is to really help small businesses train staff more effectively,” adding, “Turnover for small businesses is extremely expensive because of the resources it takes. This program will help you train a staff by reimbursing you their wages during that training period. Right now that’s 480 hours, so it could be up to three months full time.”

She said the program is a reimbursement grant with the business owner responsible for paying the wages, once approved, and then invoicing the state for reimbursement.

It’s a pretty easy program to write,” she said. “The grant application itself is very straightforward, and I do everything with the business owner. I sit down with them, and we walk through question by question and write the entire thing together.”

Another funding opportunity for business training, Costa-Cargill said, to help small business owners or their staff access training will pay up to $2,000 for a course, a conference, a workshop, an online certification course and the like.

She also noted the USDA Rural Energy for America Program, which can help a business improve a building energy efficiency including lighting, insulation, doors and windows and the like. It’s a grant and loan combination, she said, and can work in conjunction with other funding for construction.

“A lot of the buildings in our downtown districts are historical buildings, and those buildings come with their own sets of challenges,” she added. “They’re often not easy or cheap to address.

“There are also programs through the (Wyoming) Business Council for community owned spaces. That doesn’t necessarily help my small business clients, but I also serve municipalities, so if there are placemaking spaces, there may be funds available to enhance blocks or enhance Main Streets.”

The Wyoming SBDC Network provides no-cost business advising on starting or growing a business, financial analysis, cybersecurity, government contracting, technology innovation, export assistance and more, according to promotional material Costa-Cargill presented.