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Training Suite Eliminates Cramped Quarters

November-December 2009 

by David Zaslawsky

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors usually holds its monthly meeting in the Blount boardroom.

A recent board of directors meeting was moved to the Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) in a room one Chamber member played a significant role in creating, the Business Development Training Suite.

The need for additional training and meeting space at the SBRC was great, but the budget was not.

Originally designed for light industry, the room had no technology, no ceiling and lights that hummed and hummed and hummed all day long. Clients were running out of space for training. And potential participants were being turned away from the Entrepreneurial University due to lack of space. Whenever the SBRC held larger events, other venues in the community had to be used.

The SBRC had just $40,000 to convert the space into a state-of-the art training suite. But it would cost a lot more than that – an estimated $130,000.

Enter Design Build South and Payne & Associates Architects.

“They stepped forward and volunteered their services to manage the project at no cost and to leverage their relationships to secure labor and materials at a greatly reduced cost or at no cost,” said Douglas Jones, executive director of the SBRC and vice president, business services for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dave Payne, construction administrator for Payne & Associates, and Dave Branch, project manager for  Payne & Associates, directed the project. Payne was still doing some painting at 3:30 in the morning – just hours before the board of directors meeting.

For that meeting, the 1,500-square-foot Business Development Training Suite seats up to 90 theater style. The suite can accommodate about 60 people plus tables in a classroom setting -- and that excites Lisa McGinty, director of small business programs for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

McGinty and Jones both teach classes for the SBRC’s Entrepreneurial University. Now there will be room for more students and the technology in the room “is newer and better” than what is available at other sites at the resource center, according to McGinty.

“Business Development Training Suite is for training purposes and to support the Small Business Resource Center and the Chamber mission,” Jones said.

The suite also features an overhead projector with a power drop-down screen that is about 10 feet by 13 feet and there is a 60-inch plasma TV.

The Business Development Training Suite is already booked for events in November.

“Dave Payne Jr. put his personal sweat equity into the project,” Jones said. “We could not have done it otherwise.”

McGinty: “They went out to their clients and said this is a project we believe in. They were incredibly generous and showed such incredible ownership.”