Chicagoan named to head business center in Peoria

The Small Business Development Center in Peoria is located at 8385 W. Mariners Way, Ste. 3

Goal: Strengthen business growth

By Philip Haldiman
Independent Newsmedia

Michael Cohen has been named the head business analyst of the Small Business Development Center in Peoria.

The goal of the Small Business Development Center in Peoria, one of many locations throughout the state, is to maintain and strengthen Arizona’s economy by aiding, counseling, assisting and protecting the interests of small businesses. All services are free.

Michael Cohen

Mr. Cohen has been assigned to the center to promote business growth in Peoria.

He spent most of his life in Chicago where he ran a real estate business for 30 years specializing in condo conversions in the Wrigleyville area. During the Great Recession, he turned his attention to the world of SBDC, working with businesses throughout Chicago.

Mr. Cohen moved here in January having never lived in Arizona.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Peoria. Having worked in a large urban area and for a shorter time in rural Oregon, I figured it would be somewhere in between. In fact, Peoria is quite unique. I have never experienced a place so primed for growth. It’s almost like when I was a child in the 1960s in the Midwest. There is such a sense of optimism and excitement that neither Chicago nor rural Oregon possess,” he said. “If this was the Wild West before, it sure isn’t now. There is a growing air of sophistication that will serve Peoria well as the 21st century unfolds. While north Peoria is both beautiful and affluent, the core of Old Town Peoria is where I think you will see some amazing changes over the next decades. This will ultimately help to bridge any perceived divide.”

In his seven years of working in the small business realm, Mr. Cohen has honed his skills in the areas of finance, planning, marketing, and leadership in small business. The SBDC is a one-stop shop for just about anything a business needs regardless of their stage of development, he said.

“I love the challenges of small business and the difference we can make in someone’s life. Working for yourself and being able to pay the bills as well is about the best thing that can happen to you. The dream of growing old and being secure in corporate America is no longer true for most people,” he said. “If you want to really get ahead in the world, you have to do it for yourself. But it’s not for the faint of heart. There were many days when I thought I would like to just work at a fast food restaurant and go home and forget about it.”

Mr. Cohen works with a staff of 16, including business analysts, management and administration. The center has clients just starting businesses as well as some who have been operating for many years, he said.

“There is always a challenge to meet,” Mr. Cohen said. “With our terrific arsenal of tools and access to other experts, we can assist with most anything. Just ask.”

Get to know Mr. Cohen a little better.

Question: What is the biggest challenge for a small business just starting out?

Answer: While most people would tell you the biggest challenge for a small business is money, I would say the biggest challenge is focus. It is difficult to see the forest through the trees when you are putting out fires 24/7. That is my challenge — to bring order and focus to my clients so they can effectively move forward and grow.

Q: How do you see Peoria 20 years from now?

A: In 20 years I see Peoria as a well-known destination nationwide for business development with a strong core of tech companies and innovative start-ups. I see a diverse, thriving community that doesn’t take a back seat to Phoenix or the East Valley when it comes to anything!

Q: Why is Peoria a good place to bring a business?

A: Peoria is the perfect place to bring your business because the cost of living is still quite reasonable by most national standards and we have everything here. Opportunities for recreation and entertainment are everywhere. I am still getting used to the heat but it beats snow and ice any day. There are so many people here with Chicago connections, it feels like a far southwest suburb anyway.

To learn more about the SBDC or request a consultation visit  or call 480-589-6720.

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