Business consultant takes case to towns

Fish plans to offer expertise to owners

April 29, 2001|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

An employment test once told Mike Fish he should be a social worker, a weird assessment for a guy who would earn a master's degree in business from the Johns Hopkins University.

Maybe the test was right, however, because Fish is about to become an activist. Beginning Tuesday, he will spend two days a week knocking on doors in Carroll County towns, offering his small-business expertise to anyone who might want it.

A consultant for the Small Business Development Center at Towson University, Fish has helped Carroll business owners for nine years from his perch at the county's economic development office. County and town officials thought he might do even more good by hitting the road.

"It's hard for some people to know the help is available, and others don't want to leave their businesses to meet with me, so we're going to them," Fish said.

He offers tips on starting small businesses, overcoming hard times and expanding. He introduces owners to state and federal loan programs that, in most cases, they've never heard of. Fish said he meets with as many as 200 business owners a year and helps about 25 a year secure loans. The past seven months have been good ones, he said, with more than 30 owners having secured loans worth about $5 million.

Carroll's towns are working to spruce up their Main Streets with help from state money, and Fish's presence will complement those efforts, town leaders said.

"Mike Fish has always been available, and I've only heard of positive results from his actions," said New Windsor Mayor Jack Gullo. "Now, by targeting the towns, he'll have more customers, so to speak."

Hampstead Town Manager Ken Decker sounded cooler to Fish's efforts. "It's up to the business people," he said. "If it proves worthwhile to the business people, we're supportive of it. ... But the best thing the county can do is create good, solid communities to attract business."

Decker said most small-business people want the government to stay out of the way, not offer advice.

Fish said he will not look to impose anything on anyone. "I'm only there to help if they want it," he said.

Fish owned a frozen yogurt business that failed in the late 1970s and a burglar-alarm business that thrived in the 1980s.

The failure taught him more than the success, he said.

"I had to pay more attention to the numbers when I was struggling. Those are the details that help me advise the people I deal with now."

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