biz-help.jpgI've heard a lot of complaints recently from small-business owners. The economy is down, they're hurting, and they feel like no one understands their pain.

But someone does, and they're offering lots of help. The question is, are you taking advantage of it?

Where is all this free help coming from? Federal, state and local governments. After all, if businesses don't make money, they don't collect sales tax revenue and government coffers run dry. So governments have a vested interest in helping your business survive the downturn. And right now they're reaching out with a variety of classes, networking opportunities, financial assistance programs and trainings.

For instance, there's a new Small Business Administration online training course that will teach you how to land federal contracts. The SBA is also planning more than 200 in-person events by mid-October to discuss federal contracting opportunities.

States are also busy. Here in my state--Washington--there's a business fair coming up that will give business owners easy access to many government contacts all in one place. Three Northern California counties recently banded together to provide start-up funding to help small businesses offer healthcare to their employees.

No matter where you do business, from Peoria, Ariz., to tiny Lopez Is., Wash., free classes, trainings, networking and meetings are being offered. My local chamber recently started a free weekly networking breakfast -- even nonmembers can attend. 

It pays to jump on these offers, as they can be one-shot deals or limited-time offers--California, for instance, recently pulled the plug on a loan guarantee program

What free recession-beating resources have popped up in your town? Have you researched all the free government resources that are available to you, and are you taking advantage of them? It's probably a more effective strategy for growing your business than complaining about the state of the economy.