During the past year small business development centers (SBDCs) have seen a significant increase in demand for their services from wellestablished businesses looking for ways to survive the recession.
SBDCs are university- or college-based regional centers that provide one-on-one counseling by consultants and students as well as seminars to new and established businesses.
Christian Conroy, state director of Pennsylvania’s 18 SBDCs, said that many of the centers’ services have shift ed to helping established businesses find new markets in order to increase sales, develop new sources of financing, reduce energy and raw material costs, and improve business practices. “Many business owners have a lot of anxiety about the future and are very hesitant to take on new debt,” Conroy said.
Giles Wickham (shown in photo) and Marcia Readinger, both from Selinsgrove, Pa., received assistance in developing a business plan and financial statement from the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center for a new farm that grows and sells organic produce to restaurants, health food stores, and farmers' markets.
However, he said there is new interest in starting businesses on the part of laid-offexecutives who “have a lot of experience, networks, and assets.”
He noted that SBDC budgets are being cut by state agencies at the same time as the demand for their services has increased. SBDCs are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, state agencies, and businesses, including financial institutions.
Brenda B. Hopper, state director of New Jersey’s 11 regional SBDCs, said the increase in clients ranges from 20 percent to 38 percent, depending on the center.
Gary Rago, director of the Rutgers SBDC in Camden, N.J., said the big difference in SBDC clients has been an increase in well-run, profitable, established businesses that are now struggling in the recession. “They’ve talked to their suppliers, renegotiated with lenders when possible, tried to trim expenses, and are looking for other strategies to survive now that their revenues have fallen,” he said.
Clinton Tymes, state director of Delaware’s three SBDCs, said an increased counseling demand of about 20 percent is coming largely from businesses that have existed for 15 to 50 years, including builders, restaurants, service businesses, and day care centers.
Business owners are asking the SBDCs for assistance in bidding on government contracts that are identified in the federal stimulus legislation. Tymes said there’s been a threefold increase in the number of businesses seeking assistance from the Delaware SBDCs’ Procurement Technical Assistance Program.
Two other business-support programs affiliated with the SBA, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), are also experiencing strong demand. Mark Maguire, chairman of SCORE’s Philadelphia chapter, said its 13 retired business executives counsel an average of 15 to 20 people a week.
E-Magnify, a WBC at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., served 1004 clients in 2008, 30 percent more than its targeted goal.
For information, contact Christian Conroy at (215) 898-1219 or firstname.lastname@example.org ; Brenda B. Hopper at email@example.com ; Gary Rago at (856) 225-6668 or firstname.lastname@example.org ; Clinton Tymes at (302) 831-1555 or email@example.com ; Mark Maguire at (267) 394-2782 or firstname.lastname@example.org ; Shelly Weaver at (724) 830-1001 or email@example.com ; e-magnify.com .