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Business mentors get work space

SCORE will help businesses out of a new office stationed at Central Florida Community College in Lecanto.

By BRIDGET HALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2000


LECANTO -- For four years, the SCORE business mentors have been nomads of sorts, never with an office space to call their own.

The 17 local volunteers with SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a group offering free business guidance to small business owners, have worked mostly out of their homes, at times borrowing an office at Regions or SouthTrust banks to meet with clients. That changed Thursday with the grand opening of the group's own office, a portable building perched on the grassy quad at the Lecanto campus of Central Florida Community College.

"Today is a real millennium milestone for SCORE," said Ralph Russo, founder of the local SCORE chapter. "For years we were struggling to find a home."

SCORE's location at the college is no coincidence. SCORE offers continuing education workshops in business management and business advice that could be valuable resources for students, CFCC provost James Harvey said.

The SCORE mentors here have an average of 35 years of business experience, and last year the group helped 171 businesses.

"We believe our business partnership with SCORE will enhance the lifelong education efforts in the county," Harvey said.

SCORE will pay a modest rent to CFCC to use the building, and Workforce Development has donated furniture. Russo said he has been working with CFCC for about a year to line up the partnership, and he said Economic Development Council executive director Rick Jensen deserves credit for bringing the two parties together.

Shortly before the grand opening ceremony, SCORE recognized Dick Seekins as its volunteer of the year. Seekins, with the help of his wife, Rean, screens all of the calls to SCORE and helps line up volunteers.

"Dick and Rean are kind of like Bill and Hillary in the White House," SCORE vice chairman Jack Dean said amid groans and chuckles in the audience. "You get two for one."

SCORE also recognized Roberta Hawman and April Geter, co-owners of Creative Frameworks in Hernando, as the group's client of the year.

The duo opened a framing shop last summer and have already expanded their product line to include art prints, original artwork and other gift items. This year, Russo said, the store's sales are up 40 percent.

"They truly represent the talent and energy that it takes to start up a business," Russo said. "So many people underestimate what it takes."

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