R.R. Donnelley, ERA Agree to Boost Small Businesses

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BARCELONA, Spain -- The Electronic Retailing Association, Washington, announced an agreement in principle here yesterday with publishing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Chicago, to give membership to small businesses participating in Donnelley's GrowthCurve.net division. The announcement was made at the ERA's eighth annual European meeting.

As part of their entry into the organization, the small companies will become a part of what the ERA has dubbed the ERA Global Small Business Council.

GrowthCurve.net is a small-business Web enabler that allows small businesses to fill out a simple form -- either online or through regular mail -- and have a Web site up and running within a week.

"The opportunity this represents for small business is tremendous," said Curt Galusha, president of GrowthCurve.net. "Adding the ERA to the equation rounds out what we can [do] to help businesses get off the ground and actually turn a profit from e-commerce."

The agreement between the organization and the Web enabler will add a minimum of 5,000 members to the ERA within a year, with that number possibly rising as high as 10,000 to 15,000, said Elissa Myers, president/CEO of the ERA.

The ERA has a membership of nearly 500 companies.

Myers also pointed to an increased political influence the agreement will give the ERA. The organization frequently finds itself petitioning and mediating disputes and disagreements between its members and the United States' Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration.

"So many electronic retailers make legal mistakes on the Net, and 99 percent of those don't do it on purpose," Myers said. "The ERA Global Small Business Council will guide these small, new Internet companies and assist them in understanding the laws and regulations of conducting e-commerce."

Another obvious benefit of the agreement to these small businesses is networking abilities, Myers said.

"Being a part of the ERA and the GrowthCurve.net program will be like a small business getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," Galusha said. "The ERA has proven itself to be a powerful association ally for its wide and diverse electronic retailing membership. As a result of our partnering with the ERA, GrowthCurve.net's member companies can immediately benefit from the association's worldwide reach."

The agreement will be finalized in a few weeks, at which time the ERA will also announce affiliation agreements with several other commercial and trade-based Internet organizations, Myers said.

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