City Welcomes New Small Business Concierge, Plans for Changes

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There’s a new face of small business in the city. With 25 years of experience in small business development, Henry Golatt is the city’s new small business concierge – only that’s no longer the official title.

Golatt took the helm as Program Coordinator, the new working title for the position, just over two months ago. Throughout his 25-year career at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, Golatt worked with businesses in a wide capacity, from micro-enterprise development and training, to matching small- to medium-sized businesses with technology needs. He was also in charge of a unit that brought entrepreneurial thinking to a university setting.

Another element of his background served the position well – time spent working in economic development. Golatt worked with municipalities around planning infrastructure improvement through the lens of a small business.

With a new face comes new function, as Golatt takes over the role from the first person to hold the position, Ryan Schick. When Schick moved on to pursue a private endeavor, the city remained committed to maintaining a line of communication between itself and Columbus’ small businesses. The position is an innovative one, the result of direct feedback from local businesses. Columbus was one of the first in the nation to bring such a customer service role to a municipality, and Golatt says that will continue, but through a new frame of reference.

“What we are trying to do is deploy the team as opposed to the individual,” Golatt says.

In the new role, he will operate and serve as a coordinator for a small team of individuals with a breadth of knowledge and experience within multiple departments within the city.

In addition to a more team approach, “We are looking at really kind of streamlining the city’s role around small business development,” Golatt adds.

They city can’t be all things to all businesses, but can direct those seeking assistance or advice to a number of city partners. For example, the city has a revolving loan fund and partnerships with other financial institutions like ECDI and Kiva.

The city seeks to be as inclusive as possible in the types of business it supports. From fintech and high-growth companies that might bring in 1,000 jobs, to the craft-based business like the neighborhood bakery that adds to a community’s character, Golatt wants the city’s resources to be available to everyone.

That inclusiveness extends to location. Not every business wants to be located on the busiest stretch of street Downtown. Golatt wants to ensure their department is encouraging neighborhood-based small business and community development, especially in the city’s Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization (NCR) Districts – Franklinton, Hilltop, Main Street, Parsons Avenue, Long Street / Mt. Vernon and North & South Linden.

Golatt wants to see a ripple effect of economic development through small business development throughout the city. The city has 223 square miles to cover with its resources, but Golatt believes that by getting that business activity stimulated in one area, organic growth will take hold. The city is the catalyst, linking the tools and resources, and relying on the dynamic leadership of business owners to see it through, Golatt says.

As Golatt settles in, he’s still getting to know the business community and assessing where the city is and how the system will work. He expects to do a more formal rollout of what the office will look like in the coming months, and by January of 2018 present the city’s resources through a clear outline of what the office does.

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