Co.Starter Rebuild program to help businesses adapt to pandemic

THATCHER — A recent survey by the Small Business Development Center at Eastern Arizona College found an overwhelming number of businesses have experienced a significant impact from COVID-19.

On Voice of the Valley Monday, Charmaine Chidester, with the SBDC, said the survey went out to business owners in Graham, Greenlee and Gila counties, and 55 percent said the pandemic had a major impact and another 30 percent said there was a moderate impact to operations.

“And that impact mostly has been loss of sales revenues,” Chidester said. “Sixty-seven percent had said they had a loss of sales revenue, and about 57 percent said a decrease of 21 percent or more. So you can imagine 21 percent or more of your sales revenue just vanishing within a couple of weeks is a huge impact.”

Graham County Supervisor Danny Smith was able to obtain a USDA grant for a new-business startup program to be managed by the SBDC; however —with funding help from Freeport-McMoRan and the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties — it was reconfigured into one helping existing businesses.

“(It’s) a program called Co.Starters. And they rebranded, because of COVID-19, to Co.Starters Rebuild. So it’s going to help existing businesses figure out what’s going on and adapt to this crazy thing,” said Vance Bryce, executive director of Graham County Chamber of Commerce.

Co.Starters Rebuild is a nine-week online program and is free to qualifying businesses. It starts Wednesday, as does the latest Dreambuilder program, which assists female entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

For more information about both programs or to register, call 928-428-8590 or e-mail