OTTUMWA — Business is like family to Connie Hammersley-Wilson, the business development and community outreach coordinator at Bailey Office Outfitters.

“This is a long-overdue family reunion,” she said.

Hammersley-Wilson is heading up the Ottumwa Small Business Alliance, a new networking organization made up of and working for businesses in Ottumwa and throughout Wapello County. The idea is to forge relationships between local business owners and to develop a welcoming business climate for the community as a whole.

“It used to be everybody knew everybody. You knew who owned what businesses, you knew who worked there, and you were always there for one another. We can do that again,” she said. “It’s not obscure, it’s not old-fashioned, it’s just good business.”

The alliance will meet monthly and will provide a forum for business owners to gather and share ideas, learn from one another, listen to speakers, develop their social media presence and learn new marketing techniques.

But it’s not just for established businesses. Hammersley-Wilson wants the alliance to also mentor businesses just getting off the ground, as well as to serve as a place where locals interested in starting their own can come and hear advice from established business owners and experts in various fields of business development.

The first meeting will be held at 7 a.m. Oct. 24 in the Fox and Sac Room at the Hotel Ottumwa. Wapello County Supervisor Brian Morgan will be giving a talk on how taxes are spent by breaking down how many cents out of every dollar go to which purposes.

Attendants will be able to vote on what topics they would like to hear presentations on in the future. Some potential subjects include the do’s and don’ts of social media, unemployment rights, hospitality training, how to prepare employee handbooks, and local business-related laws.

Hammersley-Wilson ultimately wants the alliance to be member-led. Participants will not only decide topics of discussion, but also what form the meetings should take and where and when they’re held.

However, the majority of every meeting should be set aside for networking and relationship-building. Hammersley-Wilson wants business owners communicating, sharing ideas, cooperating and supporting each other. As the meetings progress, she’d like to have each one held at a different local business. As she explained, there are around 400 small businesses in Ottumwa, and not everybody knows what types of services and products everybody offers.

“I want to start getting people engaged and interested and having conversations and getting to know one another. Not everybody knows everybody. A lot of them do, but there’s a lot who don’t,” she said. “And that’s sad. I don’t want Ottumwa to be that way.”

Those interested in attending the meeting must pay a $10 reservation fee by Oct. 17. This will cover administrative costs as well as the attendant’s breakfast. Those with additional questions or who want to make a reservation should contact Hammersley-Wilson by phone at 641-799-2293 or by email at Connie@baileyoffice.com.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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