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Carson City librarians helping city regain its economic mojo

John Seelmeyer

Business owners and entrepreneurs in Carson City who need help with business plans, marketing data and management skills are turning in growing numbers to an unlikely source of assistance the public library.

In an effort that’s believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, Carson City last autumn brought the offices of city departments that issue business permits together with a newly created library program that focuses on the needs of startup and growth businesses.

And Library Director Sara Jones says business librarian Mona Reno, an expert at digging out the data that businesses need for marketing and financial planning, and other librarians don’t simply point users in the direction of online resources or published information.



Instead, business owners and entrepreneurs make an appointment for an hour-long session with a librarian. And follow-up appointments are common.

“We want to build that relationship and give them as much help as we possibly can,” Jones says. “Our job is to be really helpful.”



In the five months since the Business Resource Innovation Center opened its doors, librarians helped gather data for 54 new businesses and provided assistance to 22 existing businesses.

Startups, Jones says, work with librarians to gather demographic information about specific markets and get a sense whether there’s sufficient demand for their products.

A set of software and printed volumes, meanwhile, provides templates for business plans for a wide variety of startup businesses, helping entrepreneurs identify the questions they should be answering before they launch a business.

For existing businesses as well as startups, the librarians help develop the competitive intelligence that helps managers identify potentially profitable niches.

The business center, Jones says, reflects a growing realization among Carson City officials that the one of the best paths to economic recovery is through strengthening existing businesses and encouraging the creation of new companies.

A $100,000 federal grant provides funding for the first two years of the center’s operation and a private grant from the Mae B. Adams Trust financed computers and other technology.

The city government has a lease-purchase agreement on the building at 108 E. Proctor St. that houses the Business Resource Innovation Center.

While the center’s name doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, it creates a nice acronym BRIC that perfectly describes the brick building across the street from City Hall that serves as the center’s home. The building previously housed offices of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development.

Upstairs from the library resources, the city now houses planning, building and business licenses services. The building also is the home of the city government’s economic development and redevelopment operations.

Organizations such as the Nevada Small Business Development Center and SCORE use space in the new center to counsel small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Groups including the Carson City Chamber of Commerce, Northern Nevada Development Authority, Carson City Downtown Business Association and Carson City Arts and Culture Coalition also have been involved with creation of the center.

City officials’ biggest surprise since the BRIC was launched, Jones says, is demand for use of its meeting rooms by business groups for workshops or other sessions.

The U.S. Postal Service, for instance, on Jan. 19 will begin a series of free monthly seminars at the BRIC on business mailing.

More than 850 people have used the meeting rooms in the past five months, and another 227 have used the bank of free computers in the BRIC.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook for those spaces,” Jones says.

While the BRIC draws a steady stream of users, librarians are stepping up their marketing efforts including memberships in business groups and looking to improve the delivery of Spanish-language services.

Jones says the librarians have more than an academic interest in strengthening the economy of Carson City.

“If the town doesn’t turn around, libraries will be the first to be kicked aside,” she says.


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