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Small Business Program Relocates, Moves Closer To Its Mission

By David Bauman - July 18, 2005

With a cross-campus move, the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CSBDC) has taken a giant step closer to the heart of its mission.

The Center – a partnership between UConn and the U.S. Small Business Administration – had been based in the School of Business. But this month, its offices were relocated to the Ratcliffe Hicks Building, next door to the headquarters of UConn’s Cooperative Extension System.

“When the concept of business development centers was developed in the 1950’s,” said Center director Richard Cheney, “the idea was to follow the cooperative extension system model, and use University resources to help in the creation and support of small businesses as the engines of a state’s economy.”

The CSBDC’s network of business assistance centers provide training, educational workshops and confidential, one-on-one counseling in all aspects of starting or growing a business at offices in 11 Connecticut cities, at no cost to the client. More than 245 workshops and seminars were offered to Connecticut entrepreneurs last year, in both English and Spanish.

Cheney says the move will create new service opportunities for the CSBDC by physically strengthening the relationship between the Center’s network and the nine Cooperative Extension Service system’s offices statewide.

“Our fundamental mission is public outreach – to provide outstanding support for entrepreneurs, and help create new businesses that will help build a stronger economy in this state,” he says. “What we do is all about teaching. That’s also the extension system’s mission.”

Kirklyn Kerr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which includes UConn’s extension system, says, “We see this as a very positive step that will add strength to our extension program.”

Cheney sees the move as an opportunity to reorganize the CSBDC to enhance collaboration among its business centers, create efficiencies, and offer improved business counseling for the program’s clients.

“Each of our business counselors has tremendous business experience, and we’d like to leverage their areas of specialty such as in manufacturing, capital formation, taxation, foreign exports and so forth,” he said. “We’re looking structurally at how they can move more around the state to share their expertise.”

Cheney also hopes to increase the staff of 10 professional business counselors; boost the number of business seminars offered annually; and open up to three new business assistance centers.

“Demand for our services is greater than our supply,” he says.

Since its creation in 1980, Cheney estimates the statewide program has provided business counseling assistance to more than 39,000 entrepreneurs.

The most recent independent audit, conducted earlier this year, showed that the network created more than 870 new jobs and generated $85 million in sales in 2003-2004 alone. An additional $93 million in sales revenue and more than 1,500 jobs were saved during the period studied, as a result of the CSBDC’s business counseling assistance to existing firms.

The study also revealed that clients counseled by the CSBDC generated a return of $3.88 in tax revenues during the period analyzed, for every dollar invested in the program.

The study surveyed all CSBDC clients who received five or more hours of counseling services. The growth in sales and employment exceeding statewide averages was used to calculate the increase in tax revenues generated the year after clients received CSBDC counseling.

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