What are Small Business Development Centers?

Small Business Development Centers are state institutions that provide professional, low-cost training, advice and support to local entrepreneurs and small companies. These centers are the result of a co-operative effort of the government’s Small Business Administration (SBA), state, local governments, the private sector and the educational community. They are part of the Entrepreneurial Development’s network of training and counseling services.

Locations

Each state has several Small Business Development Centers, referred to collectively as the state’s Small Business Development Center network. There are currently more than 60 networks in the U.S., the District of Columbia and the territories. Between the networks, there are in excess of 900 delivery points. In each state, there is a Lead Center, satellited by a number of Service Centers.  Citizens can call or email their state’s network to find their nearest center. Some centers are located in educational institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and community colleges. The majority of Small Business Development Centers are in central, easily accessible locations.

Job Creation

Small Business Development Centers are often very successful in creating jobs, sometimes even beating the goals set by the SBA. For example, in October 2012 it was announced that in the previous fiscal year, the Wyoming Small Business Development Center network had helped create or retain almost 1000 jobs within the state. Small Business Centers typically work with local entrepreneurs to create jobs within the community. They assist such business owners in getting millions of dollars in loans and private equity, money which can then be used towards job creation and retention. This financing also allows new start-ups to be established and expanded, which in itself creates jobs.

The ability of Small Business Development Centers to contribute to higher employment rates was given a huge boost by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2011. A major reason why the Wyoming network was able to assist in the creation and retention of so many jobs is its receipt of a $325,000 grant from the Act. This kind of funding helps Small Business Development Centers all over the country to provide many services to small businesses for little or no cost. It’s well worth the government making this level of investment in Small Business Development Centers, as the more jobs there are, the more the economy benefits.

Training & Consulting

Companies also receive support from Small Business Development Centers in the form of training services and grassroots consulting. This helps businesses to grow and also to survive in tough economic conditions. The services available include individual consulting, technical assistance and training in all areas to do with start-up, operations and management. In addition to the programs available to all small business populations, there are also services specifically targeted towards ethnic minorities, women, military veterans, the disabled and people from low to moderate income backgrounds, as well as 8(a) firms in all stages.

There is a number of special emphasis initiatives featured on the Small Business Development Center program. They include international trade and export assistance, technology transfer, e-commerce, regulatory compliance and research and development. The Office of Small Business Development Centers hires qualified counselors to deliver these initiatives to businesses and entrepreneurs. Where necessary, the counselors are given additional training in the areas covered by the initiatives. For instance, there is an export and trade counseling certification program that serves the purpose of expanding the number of counselors able to help companies engage in international trade.

Grants

Small Business Development Centers provide funding to higher education institutions, community and land grant colleges and Women Business Centers (WBCs). Grants are awarded through a number of different annual programs such as the Veteran Program, Portable Assistance, Drug Free Workplace, Energy Audit and Efficiency Assistance, the Small Business Jobs Act Program and Defence Economic Transition Assistance. Programs may vary from year to year. The SBA funds the grants and intends to for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the Small Business Development Center Program is the SBA’s biggest matching grant-funded program.

Coordination

To avoid duplicating services and therefore wasting money, Small Business Development Centers work collaboratively with other SBA-funded programs, including WBCs, Regional Innovative Clusters, Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs), U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) and the SCORE Association. Small Business Development Centers in the same community as any of these agencies coordinates with them to offer training and resources to clients without overlap. The result of these resource partners working together is the provision of seamless business development assistance to all types of entrepreneur and company within the community.

Performance

In order to encourage Small Business Development Centers in their pursuit of excellence, the SBA sets a number of performance targets in relation to the creation and retention of jobs, the creation of businesses, capital infusion, growth rate of company revenues and the number of single-year, long-term clients. The targets are negotiated annually between the SBA and the centers. By meeting these targets, centers prove they have the ability to provide detailed, substantive, long-term, outcome-orientated services to the community. The SBA uses a centralized data collection computer system to harness information on the performance of Small Business Development Centers.

Association of Small Business Development Centers

Founded in 1979, the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) represents the collective interests of member centers by supporting, informing and promoting them. ASBDC operates in partnership with government, private enterprise, institutions of higher education and local nonprofit economic development agencies. With the aim of continuously improving Small Business Development Centers, the ASBDC encourages information exchange among members regarding objectives, outcomes and methodology. Between them, ASBDC members assist an estimated 1 million small businesses in America each year.

Small Business Development Centers play a vital role in the survival and growth of small ventures. The training programs, informational tools and financial support provided by the centers can often be the difference between an entrepreneur succeeding and failing. Whenever there’s a strong economy, a lot of the credit must go to Small Business Development Center networks for helping local businesses to thrive and contribute to the community.