Annual Mayor’s Conference – Economic Survival
Savannah Morning News
February 18, 2009
Mayor Johnson’s conference focuses on surviving economy
Third Annual Mayor’s conference aimed to arm small business with tools for success
When Michelle Jervey attended the first Mayor’s Small Business Conference in 2007, her company, Satori Construction LLC, was just starting to get off the ground.
That conference taught Jervey how to use local resources that are available for businesses. And those resources helped her navigate the city’s bidding process, secure funding, and form alliances with other companies.
Two years later, Satori has done more than $150,000 in business with the city of Savannah and expects to have $2 million in gross receivables in 2009.
Satori attended the 2009 conference, held Tuesday at the Savannah Civic Center.
Approximately 250 registered for the conference, which focused on helping businesses get through a difficult economy.
“Now because of the economic climate this is about how to survive,” Mayor Otis Johnson said.
The conference helps to fulfill his vision statement for the city – that “Savannah will be a safe, environmentally healthy, and economically thriving community for all of its citizens.”
Johnson hopes small-business owners at the conference gain a better understanding of what it takes to be successful and get through hard times.
“With small businesses, I feel certain these are very challenging times because so many are vulnerable to all parts of the economy,” said Rochelle Small-Toney, assistant city manager.
Conference attendees networked with each other and learned from workshop, executive coaching and roundtable discussion sessions.
Native Savannahian Suzanne Shank, vice chair, president and CEO of investment banking firm Seibert Brandford Shank & Co., was the keynote speaker. She talked about how forums such as the mayor’s conference were vital to helping small businesses grow.
“There’s so much risk in starting and running your own business, but small businesses are the bedrock this country was built upon,” she said. Shank added that she had no desire to own her own business as a student at Johnson High.
“Both my parents worked and they urged me to acquire employable skills,” she said. But after working as a civil engineer and later as an investment banker for a Wall Street firm, circumstances made business ownership attractive.
Even though some of her competitors such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs have fallen on tough times, Shank’s organization is continuing to grow.
Similarly, the economy hasn’t had much of an impact on Satori.
Jervey unofficially started the company in 2005 and incorporated in 2006.
She built the business slowly, doing much of the work herself – and that included painting the Broughton Municipal Building while she was eight months pregnant.
“When you start a business, you have to sacrifice,” she said.
The company was able to secure loans with Carver State Bank and built its reputation in the community for doing quality construction work.
Now, the company has three employees, including Jervey, and a contract crew between 20 and 25 people.
Satori recently received a contract to do the masonry for Sustainable Fellwood, a mixed-use development west of Savannah’s Historic District that will include affordable housing units.
“To get that contract was a really big deal,” Jervey said. “It also gives us the opportunity to work on a LEED-certified project.”
They’re putting in 400,000 bricks for the first phase of the development.