ALBANY, Ga. — Help is just around the corner for those adventurous individuals seeking to open a business. At a town hall meeting at the Albany Law Enforcement Center Saturday, some 15 business hopefuls got pointers on where to go.

Tracy Hester, manager of Albany-Dougherty County Planning and Development Service, spoke on the Business First program, an initiative of Albany and Dougherty County. According to Hester, the program was established five or six years ago with the intention of helping business-minded newbies with a no-cost guide to the challenges and opportunities available.

“This is basically an on-call program,” Hester said. “If we have an applicant with a request for a meeting we call the group together and meet at our office at 240 Pine Ave., on the 3rd floor of the planning office.”

Hester said the interested future business owners would be meeting with a large group of city, county and Water Gas and Light employees who are involved with the process day to day. According to material provided Saturday, the Business First team consists of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Commission, the Albany Fire Department, the City and Downtown managers, Water Gas and Light, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center and several other entities.

“It’s actually very relaxed,” Hester said. “It might seem intimidating at first because we sit around a conference table with you at the head. It’s just general discussion with you and about 15-20 other people there to answer your questions.”

According to Hester, a huge part of the recommendation for anyone considering a new business is the creation of a business plan.

“You can’t go anywhere without a business plan,” Hester said. “The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech programs focus on that. They don’t do them for you but they’ll provide you with every tool and piece of information available to help you build your plan. If you show up at a financial institution without one, they’ll smile and offer you a donut as they’re walking you out the door. Without a business plan they’re not going to talk to you.”