In the community

Testi closes door on long career helping businesses thrive

ONTARIO – Andrea Testi is going fishing.
Then she’s going to help her husband, Nick, work on their small farm south of Fruitland.
By the end of January, though, she definitely isn’t going to be in her familiar spot as the director of the Treasure Valley Community College’s Small Business Development Center.
Testi, who held the job for 24 years, will retire this month.
The native of Long Island, New York, said it is time for her to ride off into the sunset.
“It’s been a long tenure, amazing and a blast but it is time for someone else to step in and have as much fun as I have,” said Testi.
Testi, 64, said she stepped into the director’s chair at the center in 2000
“I want to spend more time with my husband. Time is moving along and we are both ready for the next phase of our lives and it will take both of us to get there,” said Testi.
The business center helps people who are either already business owners or who want to start their own venture. There is no charge for the service. Testi leads three full-time and seven part- time business advisers who work with clients to create business plans, find start-up funds, help with budgeting and provide advice.
“Everybody needs a mentor. Everybody needs a second set of impartial eyes to look at what they are doing,” said Testi.
Testi said the center isn’t just for those who want to start a new business.
“We work with existing businesses to help them grow, stabilize. The business spectrum is a full circle,” said Testi.
The work by the advisers at the center is holistic, said Testi.
“Having an expert to step in and focusing you to work not only in the business but outside the business is important,” said Testi.
Opportunities for small business owners are not as plentiful as they once were, said Testi, including a reluctance by financial institutions to provide loans.
“Credit scores have incrementally climbed higher, the amount of collateral has increased and funding for small business start-ups is extremely difficult,” she said.
Testi said those factors “sort of thwart entrepreneurship.”
Generational shifts also play in a role to stymie small business growth, said Testi.
“Just locally, here in Malheur County, we have an aging population of existing business owners. They’d like to do what I am doing and retire and there isn’t the energy of the younger population wanting to step in and take over the reins,” said Testi.
Testi learned about small business at a young age, often trailing her grandfather, a bricklayer.
“I helped mix cement and carried cement for him. I was his cement hauler,” she said.

When she was young she said, her goal was to become a librarian “which is what my master’s degree is in. My first love was research.”
Testi worked at a small business center and opened up her own small business in Wyoming before she and Nick moved to the Treasure Valley.
Testi said she saw an advertisement for the TVCC small business center opening.
“I said, this is me. This center has been here 40 years and I’ve managed it almost 24 of those 40 years,” said Testi.
Testi’s local focus is one of the perks of her job, she said.
“My job exists because of our entrepreneurial community. Coming to work and doing this job is a huge motivator. My family, my husband and my animals, they provide me with the solace I need every day,” said Testi.
Testi said even though the business center has existed for decades she still encounters people who don’t know about it.
“Our doors are open to anybody. All of us are business owners ourselves so we come with the experience of hard knocks,” said Testi.
She said she will miss the people at the center when she retires. She will also miss “engaging with business owners and living their dream with them.”

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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