Mary Ellen McClanahan: Small Business is Big Business in Augusta

Mary Ellen McClanahan

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Small businesses are a critical component of – and a major contributor to – the strength of local economies.

Small businesses present new employment opportunities and serve as the foundation of some of the largest corporations.

As Georgia continues to hold the title as the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business for the fourth year in a row, it is essential that we acknowledge the more than 650,000 registered small businesses that represent a significant majority of Georgia’s economic footprint.

Most people don’t realize that 99.8 percent of Georgia companies are considered small businesses. They may be small, but they are mighty!

Our small-business efforts here at the Georgia Department of Economic Development are to enhance the profile of Georgia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We want to make sure that every citizen, company and community is aware of the state’s small-business resources.

Augusta is definitely a top spot for small business to thrive in our state. I recently connected with in Augusta, a technology-oriented incubator. The group provides individuals with the space, guidance and network necessary to tackle the challenges they may face as a new company.

Located in a historic schoolhouse, is a place of ideas that focus on knowledge, creativity and implementation through two main efforts: learning and prototyping, and co-working and business incubation. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out – you should!

Co-founder of, Eric Parker, is one of the nation’s leading innovation architects. Parker is always eager to share his insight with other communities looking to create a similar business in their local area. While the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s small-business team receives more than 1,000 inquiries a year from all over the state, anyone close to the Augusta region is pointed in’s direction to see if solid connections can be made.

The metro Augusta region also is home to many of the state’s 129 “Entrepreneur Friendly” communities, including Richmond, Columbia, Burke, McDuffie and Lincoln counties. The state’s Entrepreneur Friendly Community Initiative helps counties build entrepreneur and small-business strategies into their overall economic development efforts.

The six-month process helps communities identify strengths, weaknesses, resources and eye-opening best practices to help them build and sustain an enabling business environment.

Whether you are starting or growing a small business in Georgia, we want you to be successful. In fact, 1,016 companies received one-on-one assistance from the department’s Entrepreneur &Small Business division during the 2016 fiscal year. From conception to expansion, our team is ready, willing and able to assist.

Georgia’s victory in small business is also a result of strong leadership of Gov. Nathan Deal, a true advocate for small businesses who has done an incredible job of creating a pro-business environment. Furthermore, Deal has declared March 13-17 as Georgia Small Business Week, when he encourages all Georgians to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements made by small businesses across the state.

During the week, we will also celebrate Georgia’s four “Small-Business Rock Stars,” that have risen to the top as outstanding, unique and impactful small businesses. These companies have shown increases in revenue, sales, exporting, product lines, jobs and economic impact. Additionally, the companies have shown a dedication to creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit. On Monday, a panel of judges will select the Rock Stars from a pool of 135 nominations.

In Augusta, and all over the state, small businesses are finding access to everything they need to remain competitive in the market and meet the growing demands of their customers.


Mary Ellen McClanahan is director of Entrepreneur &Small Business division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.