FREMONT, Ohio — Local community colleges have been helping connect people to jobs for years. Now, Terra State Community College is also offering direct help to local small businesses.

The Fremont-based college has become one of the key figures in workforce development in northwest Ohio, helping potential employees receive training and certifications to fill job openings.

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Now, with funding from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Grant program, a new business resource center has launched within the Kern Center at Terra State.

The goal is to help better serve existing small businesses, instead of focusing on start-ups or larger companies.

"The gap was: small businesses in the middle really didn't have someplace to go if they had questions," Terra State spokesperson Cory Stine said. "So our small business center will be able to address that with things like marketing assistance or end-of-year tax filings."

Terra State's business resource manager, Carolyn Rodenhauser, said it's important to not only serve people trying to get a job in the area, but to also make sure small businesses' needs are met to ensure a strong local economy.

The grant will fund the business resource center until next summer.

Some of it's offerings include a call center, mentorship programs and free training for locally-owned businesses in Sandusky, Seneca, Ottawa, Erie and Huron counties.

"We have professionals who have owned businesses, they've gone through the trials, they understand a lot of the ins and outs. And that's our goal, is to help other businesses grow in the community," Rodenhauser said.

The center fills in the gaps where some entrepreneurs need assistance, Stine said.

"Oftentimes they have a great idea and a great friend support network, but they need a little help figuring out the bureaucracy of the paperwork and the law, or where to go to just put some pieces and parts together. That's what we're confident the small business center is doing," Stine said.

The business resource center can be reached by phone at 419-559-2491 or online.

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