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'Back on Track America' to bring small businesses free advice during nationwide rail tour


Back on Track America™, a coalition of small business experts, nonprofits and leading corporations — including America Online and Amtrak — is launching a six-month nationwide rail tour to bring information, advice and free counseling directly to small businesses affected by current economic conditions and Sept. 11’s continuing impact.

Small-business expert Jane Applegate, who organized the tour, and hundreds of volunteers, business experts, best-selling authors and well-known entrepreneurs plan to kick off the event Nov. 13 with an AOL/Amtrak-sponsored event at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. From there, they’ll board a special Amtrak car and travel to New York City for the first of several free public events including workshops and town meetings. Subsequent events would be held in more than a dozen cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"Amtrak is pleased to have the opportunity to support the efforts of Back on Track America by providing transportation across America for the team," said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer George Warrington in a prepared statement. "It is vital for all areas of business to work together to build the strength of America’s small-business community because it is these small businesses that are the economic heart of so many American communities."

Throughout the tour, AOL plans to provide programming features with in-depth coverage of each event, including tools and resources from the tour in addition to on-site participation at the events. Beginning Nov. 13, tour content would be available through AOL, AOL Web Properties Netscape and CompuServe, and throughout Netscape Netbusiness service for small businesses.

Expert advice, one-on-one counseling and several resources would be freely available to small-business owners and their employees. Representatives from Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Fleet Bank, Merrill Lynch Business Financial Services, MasterCard Corporate Payment Solutions, ING U.S. Financial Services, Quick Books by Intuit and additional coalition members plan to provide counseling and support. Each session would conclude with a town hall-style meeting where business owners and leaders would develop practical solutions to pressing business issues.

"Big and small business owners were already facing economic troubles prior to Sept. 11," said Applegate, president of Small Business TV Corp., which is producing the events. "We’re bringing free expert advice and resources right to the doorstep of America’s entrepreneurs."