Blount Chamber offers resources for those searching for jobs

An unprecedented Job Resource Day will empower Blount County job seekers with valuable skills and counsel on Tuesday, March 3, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Blount County Public Library.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will provide a series of presentations and one-on-one counseling sessions to help displaced workers with their job search.

“The event planners have brought a group of experts together to help Blount Countians find quality jobs,” explains Bill Marrison, chair of the Blount County Chamber. “For example, online resources and training opportunities can make a tremendous difference to a successful job search, but only if people know about them.”

The Job Resource Day is sponsored by four Blount County organizations - the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Maryville College Center for Strong Communities, Labor and Workforce Development located in the Tennessee Career Center in Alcoa, and the Blount County Public Library.

Fred Forster, president of the Blount County Chamber, notes that hundreds of Blount Countians have lost their jobs recently, and the Chamber is doing everything possible to help them find new jobs as quickly as possible.

“By pooling our resources, Blount County has a wealth of resources and expertise to help our citizens get their feet back on the ground. This Job Resource Day is a perfect example of how Blount County works best when it works together.”

A series of five presentations, one beginning each hour, includes one session that teaches how to embark upon a quality job search that includes the Internet, print classified advertisements and other sources of job leads. A session on financial planning will address topics such as how to handle existing 401K retirement accounts and tips on budgeting. Sessions on resume writing and interviewing skills will teach attendees how to stand out and compete for the job. Additionally, one session will focus on the many resources and services available to displaced workers including training opportunities.

Simultaneously, an adjacent resource room will be staffed by employment experts from throughout the region. These experts will be available for one-on-one counseling sessions to help individuals customize their own job search plan. Participating organizations include the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Career Center- Alcoa, Blount County Library, Maryville College, Pellissippi State Technical Community College, Blount County Adult Education, TN Technology Center and various financial service organizations and temporary employment agencies.

“We don’t want people to be discouraged,” Forster says. “We don’t want them to feel like this is something they have to face alone. There are resources available to help Blount Countians find new jobs.”

For more information, contact the Blount County Chamber at 983-2241.

Help for businesses

The Blount Chamber and the Small Business Development Center, a division of Pellissippi State Technical Community College, will offer a training seminar to help small business owners better weather the current economic crisis.

“Business Survival During an Economic Downturn” will be offered at 8 a.m. to noon on March 17 at the Blount Chamber, 201 S. Washington Street in Maryville. This workshop is open to all businesses in the Blount County area.

“The event is designed to address a wide range of steps business owners can take to preserve cash and maintain business operations during the present national economic recession. It is critical for all businesses to fully explore all possible measures to off-set reductions in cash flow and bottom line,” said Patrick Geho, state executive director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

“Now more than ever, the Chamber is offering more seminars, programs, and services to help all area businesses survive in these challenging times,” said Fred Forster, president & CEO of the Blount Partnership.

“Pellissippi State has always understood the value small business brings to our area’s economic prosperity. That’s why we’ve invested in providing services to small businesses through our Business and Community Services division and the TSBDC. Working with our Chamber partners, the TSBDC staff is continually reaching out to help small businesses prosper in all economic cycles. Their work is never more important than it is now. These training events are just one of the many ways the TSBDC provides valuable services,” said Allen Edwards, president of Pellissippi State.

Cost to attend “Business Survival During an Economic Downturn” workshop is $15 for Chamber Members and $30 for non-members.

To register, contact Linda Lambert at 865-273-1205 or at llambert@blountchamber.com.

Other resources

The Blount County Chamber is also offering online resources to help business owners who are facing tough economic times.

On the Blount County Chamber of Commerce website, www.blountchamber.com, there is a section on Economic Downturn Help Center. On the Downturn Help Center site are a checklist for businesses, hints on procurement opportunities, marketing tips and a link to the Chamber Job Board.

Some of the tips include:

Assess your expenses: Travel less. Will your existing computer work with just an upgrade? Encourage your employees to be mindful of their expenditures.

Step up customer service. The adage that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers is a proven fact. Strengthen your relationship with that 20 percent. If a pricing increase is necessary, communicate that to your customers personally if possible.

Meet with your vendors to see if they anticipate increases in their products or services.

Analyze contracts and consider rebidding.

Encourage total commitment from your employees during this time. They should be aware that their future as well as the future of the business is at stake. Be upfront with your staff to create an environment of trust.

Strengthen your relationship with the bank. It is important that they are fully aware of your business situation.

Stay positive but have a “Plan B.” Economic cycles are part of realty. What goes down will eventually go up but position yourself to “ride the cycle” out.

Advertise. This may seem counter-intuitive but it worked for McDonald’s during the last economic crisis. Keep track of what marketing is working for you and eliminate those that are not working.

Consider sub-contractors when possible.

Take advantage of Section 179 Expense deduction (you can take up to a $250,000 deduction for qualified purchases of equipment.

Make sure your receivables and payables are getting the best returns. Shorten your terms and bill your customers sooner if necessary.

Add value to your service or product if possible. This may set you apart from your competitors. Offer discounts or special deals to valued customer.

If applicable to your business, introduce or expand on “must have” products rather than luxury items.

Consider cooperative marketing with a business that can compliment your business. Sharing advertising and marketing costs can allow you greater exposure.

A bad market is no excuse to be lazy. It’s easy to think “why bother….nobody’s buying.” Keep up your good work habits. Get in early and stay late. Persistence always pays big dividends.

The chamber also offers free business counseling with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center. Business owners and managers can schedule a one-on-one free business counseling session with the development center. At the sessions, owners can meet with an expert and discuss issues such as cash flow, financing, customer service, employee issues, marketing and health insurance.

To make an appointment contact Vicky Jones at 865-983-2241 or vjones@blountchamber.com.

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