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Small businesses get online boost

Small business owners trying to navigate the sometimes-perilous rapids of entrepreneurship have a pair of new online allies.

The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County and the Jackson County Library have recently rolled out new online informational services aimed at small business owners.

The Chamber has launched a partnership with ChamberBiz, a national online small business resource connected with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Being a small business person is kind of a lonely place to be sometimes, says Brad Hicks, the Chamber's top executive. We thought this was a real good way to lead our members to information that is relevant to their businesses.

The ChamberBiz site, which can be accessed at — or directly at , offers information on issues such as regulation, labor, marketing and management. It also includes regular updates from the national chamber.

Chamber members can also get a free e-mail account and conduct online surveys. Vendors such IBM and Office Depot help sponsor the site and offer their services as well; local companies also can advertise.

Hundreds of chambers around the country have committed to sign up, says Hicks, noting that users can also search for chambers of commerce in a given area.

The Chamber's offering is free to its members, while the library charges a fee for its new information service.

The library's service is called At Your Request Information Service. It offers information that library officials say is not readily available to small businesses and individuals outside of a larger metropolitan area.

That information includes things such as business mailing lists and databases, company profiles, demographic data, trademark searching, document delivery and public records searching.

While local small business development centers and other educational sources already assist small business owners, program coordinator Glenna Rhodes says more assistance is needed in the implementation stage of business plans.

The problem is complex, she says. Businesses often don't know what type of information resources are available, how to use them effectively or how to acquire that information.

The fee-based service is a partnership with FYI, a department of the Los Angeles County Public Library. Users can access the information . They can also get guidance from Rhodes by calling her at 541-482-1197 or e-mail .

Rhodes says the local library doesn't have the resources to provide the information — particularly custom work — so it decided to partner with someone with the resources to do that.We could direct people to the right place, she says.The service's real value, she says, is that FYI can perform custom manipulations of data. For example, it could produce a profile for a specific area within a city based on U.S. Census data. The value, Rhodes says, is that FYI offers a meaningful context for understanding the data.