SBA offers online seminars

The Small Business Administration will sponsor its first-ever Internet conferences for small businesses next week with the help of a private-sector partner.

On Feb. 20 and 22, small-business owners will be able to participate in free, one-hour online seminars designed to teach them techniques on how to grow successfully and to serve as a question-and-answer forum.

The conferences, titled "Jump Start Your Business Success," are being hosted by Great Plains Software Inc., a Fargo, N.D.-based integrated solutions provider for small and mid-size businesses.

Clifton Toulson Jr., SBA associate administrator of business and communications initiatives, said the online conferences will enable the agency to offer its small-business expertise in a way that's convenient and inexpensive.

"It's a cost-effective way to become informed on how to make businesses successful," Toulson said.

Participating businesses will learn how to develop an effective growth management system, view demonstrations of business management software and see how e-business techniques can be applied.

They also will be able to participate in concurrent chat rooms in which SBA and Great Plains experts will answer questions.

Toulson said interest is high, with 700 to 800 businesses signed up — more than would be expected at a similar live presentation.

"I would say there's an overwhelming interest," he said. "It's highly unlikely we would see those numbers in any one city."

Businesses can sign up for one of the conferences at Great Plains' SBA site, www.greatplains.com/sba. Microsoft Corp. announced that it had agreed to acquire Great Plains in late December.

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