Jeff HeuchertStaff ReporterIf you're thinking about starting or expanding a business, staff at the Stratford-Perth Centre for Business want to be the first professionals you call to get started.The centre, which provides one-on-one business coaching, financing and expansion planning, was created through a partnership with the City of Stratford, Province of Ontario and the Perth Community Futures Development Corporation, whose general manager, Jaret Henhoeffer, wants to spread the word on the many services the centre has available to business owners and entrepreneurs in Perth County.Loans of up to $150,000 are available though the centre to new or expanding businesses, while staff can also direct clients to other government programs and grant options and connect them to financial institutions. Since 2002, Perth Community Futures has invested $7 million in 111 businesses.Since 2002, they've helped 755 clients in Stratford; 148 in 2007 alone. "The volume of entrepreneurs walking through our front doors is rising, as expected," says Henhoeffer. "As the economy weakens, and layoffs happen, more individuals choose to invest in self-employment."Henhoeffer says it's vital that not just individuals, but communities determine what are the long-term trends and opportunities so they make choices that lead to careers that will exist and experience continued growth in the next 10-15 years.One local business, started before the Internet boom, but that has thrived in the ever-expanding technology industry, is IT Outfitters, which specializes in providing information technology solutions for companies.Company founder and owner Keith Waldron is a life-long technology aficionado who launched his consulting career almost a decade before the Internet became a household word."There wasn't really an ‘inter' net then; there were just bulletin boards that you'd have to dial in to access," he quips. "But all joking aside, I've always had a passion for this, ever since I was kid. My dad was into computers when there were about five of them in all of Canada. When the Internet came along, though, it was like a magical door opening."IT Outfitters can help small to medium size businesses connect and collaborate with their teammates or their clients over the Internet, and give them access to documents, projects, virtual meeting space, or whatever tools they might need."The heavy lifting in these kinds of collaborative solutions is done by applications that are already on the Internet, and as far as firms go, we're brand agnostic: If it works and helps people, we use it," says Waldron. "We're simply interested in giving our clients the technology they need to build and grow in an increasingly competitive world."Collaborative applications are just one of the areas IT Outfitters excels at; other specialties include custom software solutions, network and infrastructure health and the development of websites equipped with content management systems that enable clients to execute their own changes.It was Waldron's expertise in the latter two fields that led him to the Stratford Perth Centre for Business's doorstep."They're a fantastic organization, and to me, they're also an important client," he says. "When I connected with them, it was to help them with their technology."Help he did; to see the finished product, visit the Stratford/Perth Centre for business website by pointing your browser to www.stratfordperthbusiness.ca, where full details on all of their services are available. The centre can be contacted toll free at 1-877-595-7570.