New Program to Boost Small Business Growth in Merced County Through Social Media

  New Program to Boost Small Business Growth in Merced County Through Social
  Media

  Supported by Citi Community Development, and designed and operated by the
United Way of Merced County, small businesses will capitalize on the power of
                                 social media

Business Wire

MERCED, Calif. -- November 19, 2012

Small business owners in economically challenged Merced County, CA, can now
take advantage of a free, social media-based marketing program called Elements
Merced to help them reach out to new customers.

Elements Merced is aimed at small businesses in the county with less than $1
million in annual revenue. Owners will have the ability to link up with area
college students trained in the business uses of social media to create
marketing strategies. Elements Merced will be operated by the United Way of
Merced County. It is supported by a $215,000 contribution from Citi Community
Development.

“Citi’s support for Elements Merced allows Merced County small businesses to
harness technology to create economic opportunity,” says Mary Hogarty of Citi
Community Development. “This program builds on the groundwork laid by
thoughtful research and recommendations from local leaders.”

Many of the more than 5,000 small businesses in the county have less than $1
million in revenue and are often operated by first-time entrepreneurs.
Approximately 82 percent of business owners surveyed by the United Way would
welcome this kind of help.

Merced County has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, and ranks
among the lowest counties in education and economic development. Approximately
21 percent of the county’s residents live below the federal poverty line. Its
almost 260,000 residents are disproportionately young, with young adults ages
18-30 representing approximately 30 percent of the population. Unemployment
among this group is 48.7 percent, according to state economic development
statistics.

“Through our partnership with Citi, we will have the opportunity to transform
challenges into solutions,” says United Way of Merced County Executive
Director Flip Hassett. "At the same time, we will enhance and revitalize our
small business sector and enrich local college students’ educational
experience and provide them skills to succeed in the workplace and as
entrepreneurs."

A recent Citi-commissioned study by the New York City-based Center for an
Urban Future entitled Smarter Small Businesses, found that nearly half of low-
to moderate-income business owners are not using social media to promote their
businesses. The study noted that technology is no longer an option, but an
essential tool for businesses to remain competitive.

City of Merced Council Member and small business attorney Mike Murphy agrees.
"As businesses find new ways to use social media to attract customers, I
believe this program will empower our small business community and drive local
economic growth."

Local businesses and college students can learn more and apply to the program
now at www.facebook.com/elementsmerced.

About United Way of Merced County

The United Way of Merced County (UWMC) has been operating since 1954 and
functions as a leader in collaborative relationships and community building in
Merced County. Working with business, government and individuals, as well as
the nonprofit community, the UWMC seeks to relieve the burdens of its most
vulnerable and dependent citizens, and to help them become healthier, more
financially stable and actively engaged in a stronger community. For more
information, visit www.unitedwaymerced.org.

About Citi Community Development

Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to achieve economic
empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and communities
by expanding access to financial products and services, and building
sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus areas
include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial products
and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access to
financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities.
For more information, visit www.citicommunitydevelopment.com.

Contact:

United Way of Merced County
Flip Hassett, 209-383-4242
or
Citi
David Roskin, 212-559-4767
david.roskin@citi.com