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Chamber adds another 'tool' to its belt

Tools for Business is a custom suite for small-business owners


It’s turning out to be an extremely productive summer for the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce.

Not only did the group recently announce a move to a new office space in north Wilsonville, it also unveiled a new online suite of tools for small-business owners.

Dubbed “Tools for Business,” the new chamber-run website is part of an economic development tool used by cities, counties and private companies around the country.

It works by providing interested parties with pertinent information on 19 different business-related topics ranging from links to IRS employee tax forms to webinars on how to write an effective business plan.

“This is just one of several new programs the chamber is going to be rolling out in the coming months,” said Steve Gilmore, chamber CEO. “This website is being used all over the country as an economic development tool.”

Tools for Business is a comprehensive package that includes information on topics that include how to start a new business, guides, tips and links to government resources and forms to get started.

For instance, “Tools” can show you how to get your business on the Oregon Business Directory, negotiate local sign codes, find other local businesses, link to the Better Business Bureau or register a company with Google Places, Bing or Yelp.

There is also information covering business locations and tax incentives. Included on the site are property locators, programs that provide tax incentives and advice for finding the right business location.

Also featured are green business practices to help save money, as well as industry-specific information and resources ranging from hospitality to manufacturing, food processing and more.

All of this, Gilmore said, is part of a wider push by the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce to expand its online presence and make it more useful to the group’s members. One of the advantages of Tools for Business, he noted, is the customization that allows users to essentially add a “Tools” site to an existing site. Even the fonts used and overall appearance can be integrated so the page looks identical to the rest of the site. This is the case with the Wilsonville version, available at Wilsonville.toolsforbusiness.info.

“The website is one of the most important things we have, simply because it is the gateway into your community electronically,” Gilmore said. “Even our site is mobile-optimized and friendly now.”

Gilmore said the chamber found out about Tools for Business at a national chamber conference earlier this year.

“That’s one of the advantages of going to national and regional conferences,” he said. “We can access information and tools that a lot of people may not even be aware of.”

Chamber member Cookies by Design, owned by Doris Wehler, sponsored the Tools for Business addition at a cost of more than $2,000.

Tools For Business was founded by a pair of California entrepreneurs in 2007. Carolyn Usinger and Kay Reynolds met at the California Academy for Economic Development, where Reynolds was the executive director. With a similar vision for providing online tools for business owners, the collaboration was born.

Already versed in business startups, Usinger helped develop the online tools, while Reynolds prepared the academy to deliver the new service. With grant funding the company was launched. Through its subscription service it now serves more than 160 clients that include chambers of commerce, cities, counties and economic development groups spread across 32 states.

Gilmore noted that the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce has expanded from roughly 375 to 550 members since he took over the organization in 2008. As such, the need for online and other business development tools only continues to grow.

“We have seen incredible growth this year,” he said. “And with those additional resources we are able to provide a more robust level of support for local business.”

For more information, visit toolsforbusiness.info, Wilsonvillechamber.com or Wilsonville.toolsforbusiness.info.




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