Green Bay hopes to build small business success with Google

File photo (WLUK)
File photo (WLUK)

GREEN BAY - Many of us use the Internet to find local restaurants and shops.

But not all small businesses take the leap from Main Street to the dot com world.

At the same time Bay Area Diamonds opened eight years ago on Military Avenue, owner Jill Rouse launched the store's website.

"You can't not have a website, everybody - especially now that they have the phone, everybody has Internet," said Rouse.

Rouse says her business's website is making a difference.

"Every customer that comes in our store we ask how did you hear about us. Probably about 30 percent say we found you on the web," Rouse said.

City leaders want to see every small business find that same success through a partnership with Google. It's called the Get Your Business Online City Challenge.

"When you look at businesses that are going to grow and create jobs, many of those are the small businesses. Actually 2/3 of the new jobs will be created through small businesses and being online can help them," said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.

Mayor Schmitt says it takes about an hour for businesses to set up their websites. Google offers free hosting for a year. After that, it costs about 90 dollars annually.

"You're going to attract people who maybe didn't know about you, maybe they'll stumble across your business," said St. Norbert College Communication and Social Media professor Mark Gantz.

Gantz says setting up a website through Google is something any business owner should be able to handle. However, it might be an adjustment for some.

"You want to make sure you're active, you want to make sure you're that your content is relevant and everything seems fresh and interesting on there," said Gantz.

"I've never really had much of a chance to get a website up," said Stitch 'n Time owner Lory Stoneburner.

Stoneburner has been in business six years, and says she looks forward to getting started.

"I would like to grow and maybe hire another person to help me out here. I think it would be great," Stoneburner said.

Recognizing the fact small businesses include local web developers, Schmitt says going that route is always an option.

"If you really want to expand, and have some really interactive websites and some with virtual tours, I mean, that will not be part of this program," said Schmitt.

Next week, city leaders will begin stopping into small businesses to encourage a web presence. They hope to get 100 online within a week.