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    Sen. Bob Corker in town as Google helps Chattanooga businesses build websites

    U.S. Sen. Bob Corker speaks to small business owners during an event to help small businesses grow their online presence. The event was held Monday by Google at Miller Plaza in downtown Chattanooga. Photo by Doug Strickland.

    Holly Jordan is trying to build her new business building gift baskets for customers, and she initially believed that crafting an online presence would turn out to be an “outlandish” exercise for her.

    “It’s not as hard as I thought it was,” she said after sitting in on a seminar with Google officials in downtown Chattanooga Monday.

    Jordan was among about 100 small business owners who took part in the effort in which Google experts helped local businesses create a website, get a customized domain name, free web hosting for a year and a local listing on Google Maps.

    Google spokeswoman Samantha Smith said that 59 percent of small businesses in Tennessee don’t have a website. Local businesses taking part Monday ranged from a mother who makes baby clothes to a plumber who wants to have his company on the web, Smith said.

    U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who helped bring the online giant to Chattanooga, said a lot of businesses are stepping into a new era as they go online with web sites to promote their businesses.

    “I’ve heard story after story of small businesses who’ve seen their business increase by 25 percent” when they obtain a website, Corker said.

    “It’s really people like you who create great jobs and vast amount of growth,” Corker said. “You are our future.”

    Smith’s father started a small business at one time in Memphis, which has grown into FedEx.

    “Today, Fred Smith is an icon not only in this country but all around the world because he was willing to do something he knew would work,” Corker said. “Others said it wouldn’t work, but obviously it transformed the way packages are delivered today.”

    Samantha Smith said such Google events started two years ago, and they’ve now taken place in all 50 states.

    “It’s great to have established relationships with small businesses,” she said.

    Hanna Siler of RMJ Tactical, which produces tomahawks in Chattanooga, said she learned a lot about upgrading that company’s web presence. The next step is to “put them to work,” she said.

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