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A strong resource for entrepreneurial women is paramount to growing a healthy small business economy, U.S. Small Business Administration Region VIII Administrator Dan Nordberg said.

“Women entrepreneurs are growing part of the small business marketplace,” Nordberg said. “Debbie Gorski (the Wyoming Women’s Business Center executive director) and her entire team have dedicated themselves to assisting Wyoming’s entrepreneurs create good jobs and opportunities across the state.”

Nordberg presented Gorski with the State and Region VIII Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award on Thursday at the newly opened ArtConnect Gallery, 302 S. Second St.

“There are over 100 women’s business centers in the U.S.,” Nordberg said. “This award indicates the (Wyoming Women’s Business Center) is one of the top 10 women’s business centers in the entire nation.”

The only SBA Women’s Business Center in Wyoming, Gorski’s team is located in the Laramie Plains Civic Center and partners with the Wyoming Business Council for state funding. The business center uses multiple approaches to helping Wyoming entrepreneurs, with a focus toward socially and economically disadvantaged women.

Gorski said the business center’s programs include microloans, which provides access to capital for people unable to access funds from traditional lenders, professional artist develop, which includes the Works of Wyoming store and ArtConnect Gallery, and an individual development account program, which offers matched savings accounts for individuals pursuing small business ownership, education or home ownership.

The business center also provides business roundtables and counseling and training opportunities statewide, she said.

SBA Wyoming Deputy District Director Deb Farris said the business center’s focus on helping artists become entrepreneurs was one of the ways Gorski’s team stood out.

“Artisans aren’t typically business oriented,” Farris said. “So (the business center) helps them with business aspect of the process like pricing art work.”

Nordberg said the Wyoming Women’s Business Center was the only business center in the region with an art program. Gorski said she was only aware of one other business center with a similar program in the country.

“I think Works of Wyoming is one of the coolest parts of the whole program,” Nordberg said.

Additionally, the business center’s microloan program has been a boon to people seeking to try their hand at starting a business.

“A lot of times, that’s all anyone needs is a small bit of money to get off their feet,” he said.

Gorski attributed the business center’s success to a small group of people-focused staff and said she plans to hire more business counselors as the business center’s success grows.

“I also really want to expand our micro loan program,” she said.

But for now, she said the business center is riding high after receiving the accolades.

“It makes me feel like we’re doing what we should be doing,” Gorski said.

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