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Sandy Journal

Sandy chamber receives $120,000 grant from KeyBank to help educate current small business owners

Oct 04, 2018 02:56PM ● By Jana Klopsch

KeyBank presented a check to Sandy Chamber of Commerce. From left to right: Brooke Christensen (Sandy City Council), Greg Summerhays (president and CEO, Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce), Kurt Bradburn (Sandy City mayor), Terry Grant (president, KeyBank, Utah), Debbie Trujillo (corporate responsibility officer, KeyBank), Jay Francis (Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors), Nick Duerksen (director of economic development, Sandy City). (Photo courtesy of Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

After a year of behind-the-scenes work, the Sandy Chamber of Commerce and KeyBank announced a partnership on Aug. 28 that will help current small business owners grow their businesses and learn essential skills. A grant for $120,000 was given by KeyBank Business Accelerator Academy to the Sandy Chamber Economic Development Foundation. It supports a cohort of 13 classes over 27 weeks. Participants meet with instructor Ralph K. Little to discuss skills and network with other small business owners. 

The announcement event, complete with an oversized check presentation, was held at the Salt Mine workspace in Sandy, which is also where the courses are held. There were smiles all around as Greg Summerhays, president and CEO of the Sandy chamber, introduced the program and main players. Terry Grant, an Orem native and current president of KeyBank Utah, shared how he worked with Summerhays after he reached out to KeyBank a year ago. 

“There is an entrepreneurial spirit in this state. Small and medium businesses are the backbone of our community. But they don’t teach you in school what small business owners need to know. It can be lonely at the top. That’s where this program comes in,” said Grant. 

Summerhays said he had reached out to small business owners in Sandy to see what they needed most to succeed. The answer was that they wanted to grow. So he researched programs that would help them with skills such as handling finances, marketing, and how to set prices. He found a program through the Boston-based nonprofit Interise, but needed funding to support it. 

“The funding we were able to secure came with help. This is bigger than our budget for the whole state of Utah, so we tapped into the head office in Cleveland and got a community grant,” said Grant. 

Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn added his enthusiasm about the efforts. After making a well-received joke about building a wall and making Draper pay for it, he stated that Sandy is poised to become a player in the Silicon Slopes development, and this grant is another stepping stone in that direction. “I fact-checked some statistics about small businesses being the backbone of our community, and they check out. Ninety-nine percent of eligible employers in the state count as small business owners, meaning they have 10 or less employees. And those employees account for 53 percent of the workforce in the state,” Bradburn said.  

The event included current participants in the program. Lora Lea Mock spoke about how although she had been in business for 41 years, she learned about how to keep her business relevant. Luke Werner recently expanded and relocated his energy resources consulting business from California to Utah. He reached out to the chamber of commerce for help when he arrived and was directed toward this program. He says that most small business owners don’t realize they can call the chamber and get help and support. 

Anyone expecting this to be a meeting of “old white guys helping other white guys” would have been pleasantly surprised at the diversity of the participants. Fallan Keyser of Good Grammar Bar, Peter O’ Doherty of Special Electronics Group and Alfredo Cornell of Xpro Networks represent the new faces of Utah business. Keyser, who fittingly has a family link to Al Capone, said she’s already seen an increase in her profits based on what she’s learned. O’ Doherty, who came from Ireland in 2011, says growth in the Utah market is better than the Irish market. Cornell, a native of Argentina who’s been here since 2001, says it’s easier to get a loan here than it is in Argentina. 

“There are cultural differences, but most of them are good. The diversity is good. In our courses we meet people who are having the same challenges as we are. We learn that it’s OK to fail. Our minds have been opened to other ideas. I’ve found that you learn more by helping and being helped by others than just sitting at home on your own and doing,” O’ Doherty said. 

The skills taught in the courses are similar to those taught in business school, with the advantage that they can be put to use immediately. One of the first things participants do is make a three-year plan. That first step was enough to get these business owners setting goals and planning for success. Current applications are now being accepted for the January 2019 cohort. For more information, contact the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce at 801-566-0344.