As a small business advisor at Oregon Coast Community College’s Small Business Development Center, for the past 16 years, Craig Grant has had a front-row seat to the amazing, inspiring, and sometimes challenging show that is the small business community in Lincoln County. His run of service to local entrepreneurs will come to an end this month, as he’s relocating to Tennessee to be closer to his grandchildren.
Before retiring, Grant was an executive in Chicago in the human resources field. His high-powered career often included his reporting directly to CEOs of Fortune 100 firms. He left the Windy City for the (still fairly windy) Oregon Coast, when he and his wife, Joyce, retired to an oceanfront home in Neskowin in 2003.
The Grants do a lot of things well, but retirement is not one of them.
Instead of watching the waves and sipping tea, Joyce went to work in the local Real Estate industry, while Craig started exploring ways he could put his experience to work, for coastal entrepreneurs.
It wasn’t long before Craig discovered the Small Business Development Center at Oregon Coast Community College. A longtime supporter of the College of DuPage, a local community college serving part of the Chicagoland area, he knew community colleges provided critical, boots-on-the-ground support to local communities, residents, and businesses.
During his time at the SBDC, Craig has worked with pre-venture clients – i.e. people considering launching a business who have not yet started the process – as well as firms that have been in business for months, years, decades, and even generations. In fact, more than 70 percent of people who visit the SBDC for free, confidential, one-on-one business advising are already in business.
Some SBDC clients visit the center at Oregon Coast Community College just once. In some cases, they have a nagging question about a particular issue – a tax rule, a potential competitive threat, questions about new legislation, or another specific concern. Often, however, once a client discovers the value of sitting down for an hour or two with a professional business advisor like Craig, they come back. Sometimes, they come back again and again and again.
“Our clients really love the free, confidential business advising available at the SBDC,” said SBDC Director Dave Price. “We’re happy to have them come back again and again, so long as the meetings are useful for those businesses. If they are preparing loan applications, working on ongoing personnel issues, expanding their line of products or services, or preparing to sell their business, for just a few examples, we’ll invest our advisors’ time in their business.”
Clients bid farewell
The SBDC reached out to a few of the clients who’ve worked with him over the years, to ask them to share a bit about what Craig’s counsel meant to them and their business.
“Craig will be missed,” said Bruce Polvi, a commercial property developer and owner of Lincoln City Sporting Goods and the Mid-City Plaza. “I have taken great value from the time I have spent with him – his insights and observations have proved valuable.”
“I was so fortunate to have Craig Grant for an advisor on my commercial real estate purchase,” said Melanie Richardson, of Mossy Creek Pottery. “With Craig’s patient assistance, I went from knowing nothing about the process (and honestly, only half-believing it could be achieved), to not only completing the financing for the project, but also gaining confidence and knowledge that will serve me throughout my life. I will be ever thankful for the hours he volunteered to my cause. He has been a great asset to SBDC and our coastal community. Thank you, Craig!”
Kelly Howard is one of the owners of Lincoln City Glass, the Jennifer L. Sears Glass Foundry and Volta Gallery.
“I’m so sad he’s going,” she said. “Craig has been an invaluable resource for so many aspects of my business. I am so thankful for all his time and energy he put into helping improve and make my business run more smoothly and create more good, we’ll-paying jobs in Lincoln County.”
“From before we started our school, Craig has been a beacon of encouragement and excitement about the project.” So said Julie Fiedler, the founder of the St. James Santiago School, in Lincoln City. “Always available as an experienced sounding board and mentor through the school’s growth and facilities expansion, Craig was by turns reassuring, questioning, advising, and inspiring. An advisor who directs your vision up from the day-to-day and out to strategy, possibility, innovation, and growth is a valuable asset. One who does that with candid interest and clear commitment to your success is invaluable and rare.”
Carl Christensen, of Trillium Natural Foods, has met with Craig a number of times, individually and with his co-workers. “I consider myself highly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Craig Grant over the past several years,” Carl said. “His guidance and counsel have proven to be invaluable. One of the many gifts Craig has that impressed me with is his ability to meet me at whatever level I was at. From the initial nudges to get me going in the right direction to help working thru complex issues, Craig has replied with solid systematic strategies and advice. I am most impressed by his willingness to take on my problems as his own, applying his experience and knowledge to issues I’ve brought to the table. Knowing how helpful Craig has been to myself I can imagine the impact he has had on the business community in our area has been immense. He has always gone above and beyond, exceeding expectations and setting a fine example.”
Peter Robertson and Jana Grahn met Craig when they scheduled their first advising appointment. At the time, they had an idea for a new business – one that would eventually become Northwest Septic Service.
“What can we say about Craig,” Peter said. “Within a few minutes of meeting Craig at the SBDC office, the fears and doubts about starting a new business from scratch went out the door! He knew we had something, and he knew how to make it happen. He held our hand throughout the entire process. He made himself available in the evenings and weekends. He set up and attended meetings with other professionals. If he didn’t have an answer to a question, which was rare, he knew the person who did. When the time finally came to launch, he was right there with us. He still checks in from time to time just to say ‘hi’ and make sure we’re still on track. Without any doubt our business wouldn’t be as successful as it is, or get there as quickly as it did, without him. All business aside, Craig is more than just some advisor. He was like a dad.”
Craig’s last duty at the SBDC will be Wednesday, Oct. 9, when he presents his 3-hour business fundamentals class, “Doing Business in Lincoln County.” He’s presenting the course with Wendy Ludwig, another SBDC business advisor.
“I’m so happy to be leaving my clients in such capable hands,” Craig said. “Wendy is an exceptional advisor and her background – not to mention her credentials as a CPA – are ideally suited to support the clients we serve. With the team of Misty Lambrecht, our Small Business Management Program Coordinator, and Dave Price, the SBDC has a broad skillset and decades of experience in business management and ownership in Lincoln County. Our staff is ideally suited to serve the needs of Lincoln County’s entrepreneurs today, and into the future.”
The OCCC Small Business Development Center will host a reception for friends of Craig and Joyce Grant, and any of Craig’s past clients who would like to say farewell. The event will run from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, and will be held at the SBDC office at Oregon Coast Community College’s North County Center, at 3788 SE High School Drive in Lincoln City.