Does Chester Need Its Own Business & Career Resource Center?

You may know that I host a radio program called Chester Masterminds on CMPRadio.NET covering the broad subject of entrepreneurism in and around Chester. On the show, we talk to local entrepreneurs about their experiences becoming or being an entrepreneur, we talk about what they’ve learned in the process, and as a a benefit of building the list of guests, we build a network of like-minded, supportive folks that other entrepreneurs can tap into. I call this group a “mastermind.”

Clearly, as part of this mastermind, we have three significant organizations serving Chester’s entrepreneurs: EntrepreneurWorks in downtown Chester, a local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Widener University on the edge of town, and a regional SCORE Mentors connection. All of these, combined with the Chester Business Association form a network of support for new, growing, and sustaining businesses in the Chester area. And there are governmental organizations like the Chester Economic Development Authority and others in Delaware County like the Delco Chamber of Commerce and or across PA, like the job site, CareerLink, as well. I don’t want to leave anyone out, because I appreciate that they are all there.

While launching my radio program, I began thinking practically about how Chester’s entrepreneurially-minded folks can get the supports they need. Training is definitely provided by those organizations, but if an entrepreneur takes the next step in forming their own mastermind group of mentors or partners, is there a place they can go to conduct business?

If an entrepreneur wants to meet clients privately or host group discussions or just access quality internet services, make copies, or send a fax; where can they go?

Similarly, and as I talk about on the program, we’re all entrepreneurs of our time, so if career development is their interest, is there a place someone can go for online training, group instruction, or for a quality internet connection for the increasingly online interview process?

And finally, regarding the general availability of such facility in Chester, is local proximity a necessary feature? The Headroom co-working spaces in Media offers very similar features to these ideas, but it’s roughly 7 miles away. Would a location that is closer to downtown or along Chester’s major thoroughfares be better used and thus more effective for Chester?

All of these features can be difficult to obtain in the digital desert of Chester (Come on Comcast, Verizon; your internet service in Chester stinks!), so does having an AFFORDABLE, NEARBY location help to spur entrepreneurial efforts and raise the status of Chester businesses looking to present themselves well to the world?

I welcome your feedback on the needs (or not) for such a facility. Here are a few of my own thoughts on the services a local business and career resource center might provide:

  • Digitally connected work or online training spaces
  • Open, flexible meeting spaces for small- or medium-sized groups
    • Multi-media capable, obviously
  • Private office/meeting spaces
  • Printing, faxing, copying
  • Postal services, perhaps
  • Secretarial services, perhaps
  • Support from a network of business services
    • Business Planning, Accounting/Payroll/Taxes, Legal, Personnel, Marketing/Communications, IT Support
    • Sector-specific mentoring/networking
  • Career guidance & interview spaces
  • Training opportunities
    • Customer-driven
    • Connected to existing area services like DCCC or any of the above groups

And last but not least, can we build this center as a place to build skills for residents returning to or reentering the workforce, but needing to build a resume and reputation for hard work and dedication in the mainstream economy? There are many workforce development programs out there, and a connection to them could bolster the effectiveness and affordability for all of the center participants.

I’m big on multiple bottom lines for a business, so here are my thoughts on how this (or any) business should seek to be successful:

  • Financial and operational performance (“no margin, no mission”)
  • New economic opportunities for Chester & Delco
  • A healthier community and strong workforce culture
  • Customer/client engagement
  • Social impact

To sum up, I’m interested in your thoughts on building a business & career resource center in Chester that helps the community by offering needed services affordably while providing a workforce development opportunity for challenged workers.

Drop me a note or ask a question on the radio program. I’d love to hear from you.

[Image: Philadelphia Business Resource and Innovation Center]

[Updated slightly. ed.]