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Ask About Small Business Development Centers

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By | June 24, 2012

Dear Toolkit,

I've heard that an agency known as "SBDC" might be able to help me with my business. Can you explain what and where it is, and how it might give me a helping hand?

Aspiring in Arizona

Dear Aspiring in Arizona,

Good question! SBDCs are very accessible and excellent resources, often found in or near your very own neighborhood.

The What: SBDCs, or Small Business Development Centers, work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist existing, as well as prospective, small business owners by giving them timely information as well as all sorts of management and technical support.

Over 500,000 clients nationwide receive business assistance from the Small Business Development Center program each year in such diverse areas as management, marketing, accounting, planning, financing, technology, merchandising, distribution and new product developmentā€”just to mention a few.

Many SBDCs also offer highly specialized programs in international trade, defense industry procurement, women in business, and minority business outreach. They can also provide assistance to small businesses applying for Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grants from federal agencies.

The Where: There are currently 63 main Small Business Development Center host networks with more than 900 branch locations. The centers or branches of centers are frequently located at four-year or community colleges. Anyone interested in starting a small business or expanding an existing small business will generally be eligible for SBDC assistance.

To find the SBDC nearest to you, enter your zip code onto the SBA's interactive map and refine your results to show the SBDC locations near to you. 

The Who: Each center has a specially trained director, staff members and volunteers recruited from various professions, trade associations, universities, Chambers of Commerce and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). These folks do counseling, training, teaching, research, mentoring and networking--whatever it takes to encourage successful economic development in their community by helping small businesses start and thrive.

The How: The SBDC program is a kind of public-private partnership involving federal, state and local government as well as academic resources and the private sector. The SBA generally provides half of the operating funds for each state's SBDCs, and partners provide the rest. 

Partners might include your state legislature, private foundations, special grants, state and local chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, public and private universities, vocational and technical schools, sub centers such as the many Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) as well as the community colleges that host so many center branches.

In each state, there is a lead organization that sponsors the main SBDC and manages the overall state program. Each center develops a range of services in cooperation with region's SBA district offices to maximize coordination with any other resources that may be available in that particular state.

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