PLATTSBURGH Veterans and their spouses thinking of starting or expanding a business now have new programs at their disposal to assist in the process. Representatives from the Small Business Development Center at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the Small Business Administration gave an overview of services available to current and former members of the armed forces at a forum Feb.12 at Plattsburgh Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 125. SBDC business advisors Alicia Sirk and Andy Allison explained the Plattsburgh SBDC office, located at 194 U.S. Oval at PARC, offers management and technical assistance to start-up and existing businesses in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren and Northern Washington counties. The program is designed to assist entrepreneurs in such areas as business start-up and acquisition, marketing, financial analysis, business plans, financial projections, expansions and funding. SBA representative Dan OConnell explained why most people want to start their own business. He said most people have said to themselves, I cant stand working for that idiot one more day and I can do it faster, better and cheaper! Often, people expanding or starting a business rely on the SBA for financial assistance. Mr. OConnell explained all SBA business loans originate through commercial lenders rather than directly with the SBA. Personal character and personal loan history are very important factors in determining whether or not a loan will be granted. Value your credit history, Mr. OConnell said. Find out what people are saying about you. Pull your credit history every six months. If you have a history of paying your bills on time, we assume you will continue to pay on time. Some people approach banks and the SBA for loans without having properly determined the amount of money they need to borrow or without developing a business plan. Mr. OConnell said he has learned over the years that an individual borrowing too much money will always find a place to spend the money and usually excess money will not be properly spent. Conversely, if a person doesnt borrow enough money and they have to return to borrow more money their credibility is diminished. The SBA will help determine loan amounts. We have expertise in this area and we will help you, he said. The SBAs Patriot Loan Express offers loans for most business purposes including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, and inventory of business-occupied real estate purchases. Eligible military community members include veterans; service disabled veterans, reservists and National Guard members and their spouses. Spouses of service members or veterans who died during service or of a service-connected disability also qualify. The loans do have some restrictions and collateral requirements depending on the amount of the loan. The New York Business Development Centers veterans loan program offers loans below market fixed rates and is designed to help armed forces members start or expand their business. One of its goals is to assist small business owners whose businesses have been adversely impacted by being called to active duty. The assistance is designed to allow them to recover from business consequences of their deployment. In addition to programs for veterans and their spouses, the SBDC and the SBA have programs designed to assist any entrepreneur. For more information, call the North Country SBDC at 546-2042 or visit www.nyssbdc.org on-line. The SBDC schedules meetings by appointment in Rouses Point, Elizabethtown, Lake Placid, Malone and Lake George.