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SBA takes tour of six local businesses

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Since 1972, Mark Oliverio's family has produced peppers and other Italian foods in the Glen Elk section of Clarksburg.

Even with all that experience in the business, they still need help from time to time.

"You can never know it all," he said.

Monday, Oliverio Italian Style Peppers, Inc. was the first stop on a Small Business Administration's Economic Development Tour.

Local bankers, Chamber of Commerce officials, a representative from the Small Business Development Center, the Service Corps of Retired Executives and others joined SBA officials on a tour of six Harrison County businesses.

The tour was designed to introduce entrepreneurs to business resources in their community, said Donald S. Carter, SBA district director.

"What we hope will come out of this tour is better relationships," Carter said. "This will give entrepreneurs a chance to meet people from the chamber, the SBA, the banks -- people who can help them make their business grow."

Prior to the tour, Oliverio had a few concerns about finding about 20 people to help with increased summer production at the plant.

But an official from the state job service who toured the facility offered his office's help in finding workers.

Clarksburg was the first city in West Virginia to host an SBA tour this week, Carter said. Others will follow in Charleston and Huntington later.

Helping businesses get started and then grow is part of the SBA's mission, Carter said.

"We're not just a money-lending organization," he said. "We're also here for economic development."

Besides Oliverio Peppers, the group was scheduled to visit Vito's Restaurant, HADOGA Industries, Jazzies and Ra-Mar Florist in Clarksburg, and Universal Fabricators in Shinnston.

Officials have high hopes for the businesses chosen for Monday's tour, Carter said.

"They were selected because we see big opportunities for them," he said.

Oliverio Peppers, for example, sells its products across West Virginia, and in other states. But their market doesn't have to end there, Carter said.

"We hope they will be interested in exporting their peppers," he said. "We see the opportunity for them to export them to Canada or some other country."

Officials who toured the businesses Monday want entrepreneurs to know help is available for growth, Carter said.

Local business leaders hope this won't be the last such tour. Both Jeff Mikorski, director of community development for Clarksburg, and Katherine Wagner, executive director of the chamber, said they would like to see others.

"This was just the first step in promoting a team effort," to economic development, Mikorski said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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