The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development has hired a private consultant to assist small and minority business owners with specialized services that they need to expand, but don't have the money to pay for.
The department will pay Owings Mills-based Booth Management Consulting LLC up to $1.1 million over the next three years to provide assistance that goes beyond writing a basic business plan or applying for a loan.
Booth Management will pair small companies with experts who can help them develop a Web site, apply for a patent or enhance technology within a company.
"Oftentimes this level of expertise is something that small and microbusinesses can't afford," said Robin Booth, managing partner of Booth Management. "Oftentimes they have to make the decision between making payroll or getting the expert services that will help the business grow."
The department counsels small businesses through the Maryland Small Business Development Center Network, a joint state and federal program with 22 offices throughout the state. But its counselors don't have the expertise and resources to solve more complex business problems.
Under the new initiative, the development center network will refer clients to Booth Management.
"Let's say you have a company that was about to expand and develop a new technology component to that business," said Sonia Stockton, the development network's director for Central Maryland. "We don't do that. Now we can refer that company to a specialist."
Small businesses make up a substantial portion of Maryland's economy. More than 95 percent of companies in Maryland employ fewer than 100 people. These firms account for 42 percent of all jobs and 40 percent of the state's payroll, according to the department.
Department officials decided to hire the consultant because they realized they weren't meeting all the needs of small businesses.
"They make up such a large part of the economy and tax base of Maryland," said Brenda Townsend-Milton, director of in-state business services for DBED. "They have such a large impact on the state that it's almost a mandate that we should assist them and ensure they reach their potential."
Department officials say they hope to help at least 250 companies in the three years.