A pilot program for small businesses would expand with about double its previous budget under a bill in the Nevada Legislature.
Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-Las Vegas, is sponsoring a measure, Assembly Bill 94, to scrub the June 30 expiration date on the NV Grow Program, a pilot project that’s been operating under a two-year, $150,000 budget.
She said program officials worked with businesses over the past year and a half and “the counselors were able to meet their needs and try to discuss how we could help them grow and go to the next level.”
Neal is amending the bill to bring more groups on board and organize services, among other changes. Some growing pains, such as replacing a leadership role, have been worked through, she said at a hearing Thursday before the Assembly’s Taxation Committee.
“We actually had a director who basically wasn’t following directions and was doing his own thing, and so I had to get in and get involved about six months in and try to redirect,” she said.
“I wasn’t really clear on what I was getting, and that was a lack of communication by a particular person, who basically had decided that it didn’t matter what I had to say and what the law had to say, they were going to do whatever they wanted, and so we lost some people for that reason. It wasn’t because of the value of the program, it was the fact that there was no process and I literally had to get involved and get in my own bill and make a process.”
She said during the hearing that the bill will be changed to more specifically allocate funding and ensure as much money as possible is going toward program services rather than administrative costs.
Neal’s bill calls for about $300,000 in funding, with money going toward the Nevada Small Business Development Centers for program operation and the College of Southern Nevada to hire small-business counselors.
The program was initially intended to help a dozen selected businesses, Neal said, but NV Grow counselor Kevin Raiford said the program ended up helping about 80 clients. Some had just a question or two, and others needed a data set for their area.
Raiford said the program has helped home-based cupcake sellers, beauty shop owners and landscapers, to name a few. He estimates that for every $1 invested in the program, $32 goes into the Las Vegas economy.
Raiford, a CSN business professor and entrepreneurship adviser, said the program’s main impact has been providing business owners with demographic data. He said this helps with everything from planning which languages to use in advertising to setting prices.
Revive Brand Co. owner Medin Gebrezgier is among those who have benefited from the program, both as a client and as a business counselor at the college from 2012 to 2016. He said the program helped his backpacks, bags and accessories business target marketing by using local demographics.
“Nevada Grow has helped me and my business find out exactly who my customers are and how to better serve them, create a better quality product and ultimately create a better profit for us,” he said.
The home business owner said the program also helped with social media. In Las Vegas, where many resources and focus are devoted to the Strip, Gebrezgier said he’s seen a building atmosphere of entrepreneurship in the community and is optimistic that more mom-and-pop shops will be able to flourish.
Without the program’s help, he said, “we would still be in the concept phase, tinkering around with ideas, never pushing anything forward and not having the confidence to execute because of a lack of knowledge and support.”
Business owners spoke in support of the program via video and in person. Several municipalities and chambers of commerce also voiced support.
The committee took no action Thursday. Neal asked that the committee pass the bill and move it on to Ways and Means after amendments are made.