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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2011

Google helps Ohio companies get on the Web


One of the world’s richest and most successful 13-year-olds is helping hundreds of small businesses across Ohio this week launch their own online presence, and providing a year’s worth of Web hosting, domain registration, and site development services for free for those that want to make a digital leap with their businesses.

Google Inc. — the global search engine juggernaut that entered its teen years this week — has partnered with a number of other business and advocacy groups and software maker Intuit Inc. to launch OhioGetOnline.com, a portal to help small businesses establish an initial Web site, with daylong seminars today in Lima and tomorrow in Bowling Green to help the less-digitally inclined walk through the hour-long process.

About half of Ohio’s estimated 600,000 small and medium-sized businesses don’t have their own Web site, said Scott Levitan, Google’s director of small business engagement, who was in Columbus yesterday for an event there.

“What we’re learning is that businesses are very much aware of how important it is to get online, but they find it expensive, confusing, and time-consuming,” Mr. Levitan said.

Today’s free seminar in Lima will take place at the UNOH Event Center, 1450 North Cable Rd., from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will have presentations about running an online business as well as one-on-one help from a Google employee to walk through the Web site design process.

An identical event is scheduled for the same time tomorrow in room 201 of the Student Union on the campus of Bowling Green State University.

In a study last year by Connect Ohio, a public-private online access advocacy partnership, the group found that median annual revenues in businesses that had an online presence and broadband connectivity were $800,000; in those that didn’t, revenues were $300,000.

Ron Stake, president of the Ohio Small Business Association in suburban Columbus, said many of his 500 members are too small or have been too intimidated to put themselves out on the Internet. He was at the seminar in Columbus, and came away impressed.

“A lot of [our members] are real small mom-and-pop kind of places, and I think this will really help them, because they can’t afford to go out and hire a Web master,” Mr. Stake said. “I think any small business that utilizes all that free stuff can really benefit. I saw a great cross-section of people in the room, and it was very helpful.”

Ohio is the eighth state in which Google and Intuit have launched this initiative, Mr. Levitan said. Businesses in Michigan could use the self-guided Web site, he said.

Mr. Levitan said this service shouldn’t hurt local businesses that do Web hosting, because they likely will benefit from new customers who want to further enhance their sites.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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