From the October 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs with operations in Florida can turn to several programs designed to help them grow.

The Variable Rate Enterprise Bond Program is aimed at smaller manufacturers who can't take advantage of the low-cost, tax-exempt financing available to larger corporations. Coordinated by the public-private partnership Enterprise Florida, the program enables participating firms to obtain financing of $500,000 to $2 million backed by a bank-issued letter of credit and funded by industrial revenue bonds. The loans are typically 30 percent below the prevailing interest rate and can be used for fixed-asset expansion, real-estate improvements or equipment purchases. Contact (407) 316-4646 for information.

Florida is also the only state to sponsor a network of investment corporations specifically targeting African Americans. Overseen by the Florida Black Business Investment Board, the purpose of the regional Black Business Investment Corporations (BBICs) is to close the financing gap African American entrepreneurs often encounter.

Most of the BBICs provide loan guarantees ranging from 50 to 75 percent, and all companies--including start-ups--with viable ideas are eligible for assistance. The amount available depends on the BBIC's capitalization. In addition to guarantees, the Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa corporations offer direct loans. To find the nearest BBIC, call the main office at (850) 487-4850.

California

If the city life isn't for you, this capital network is.

Finding investment capital is always a challenge for entrepreneurs, but the task is even more burdensome for small, rural businesses. California's newly created Golden State Capital Network (GSCN), a joint venture of ACCESS Capital and Rural Capital Network, offers three helpful resources:

1. a computerized matching service that links entrepreneurs with investors;

2. monthly regional educational seminars that enable three or four of the best new businesses in the community to present themselves to potential investors and lenders; and

3. the annual Golden State Venture Capital conference, at which as many as 25 companies make presentations to investors. Applications for the 2000 conference will be accepted in December.

GSCN is primarily looking for sophisticated companies with solid business plans and growth potential that are seeking $250,000 to $5 million. Although all California businesses are eligible, GSCN targets firms located in areas underserved by traditional investors, particularly rural communities. There are small fees for each program.

For more information about GSCN, call (530) 893-8732.

Workforce Act

New legislation could answer the call for more effective state employment training.

If you've wondered how to make your state's employment training programs more responsive to your business's needs, a new law may be your answer.

Called the Workforce Investment Act, the legislation puts a number of new provisions into place, including: 1) allowing states (if they choose) to allocate a portion of federal training funds to underwrite skills-upgrading for employed individuals; 2) establishing employer loan funds to help finance worker skill improvements; and 3) the centerpiece of the new system: creating work-force investment boards--new mechanisms for employer input on government-funded training programs. Now instead of grumbling about spending money to provide the unemployed with obsolete training, business owners identify specific current and future industry sectors needing employees and make sure people have the skills and training needed for those jobs.

How can you get involved? Volunteer as a member of a state or local work-force development board. State boards help governors establish local boards whose key responsibility will be oversight of employment training service providers.

State board members are appointed by the states' governors and should be in place by early 2000. Call your governor's office if you're interested in serving on a local or statewide board.