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Small businesses, economy reaping benefits of help from development center

POSTED January 27, 2012 8:55 p.m.

According to Al Seaton, a 20-year veteran of the marketing, advertising, and business development world, new jobs aren't going to come directly from budget-crunched governments – despite ceaseless arguments in Washington and Sacramento on the point.

But government can facilitate – and is facilitating – entrepreneurship and job creation through the successful, nationwide Small Business Development Center program, Seaton said.

“How we're going to get out of the mess we've put ourselves in is for small business to arise,” Seaton said.

The program, funded half by the federal government and half by local partners, sees SBDC offices council small businesses on nearly every conceivable point, from opening up shop to addressing problems after opening. Business plan help, financial assistance, hiring programs, and marketing guidance all fall under the SBDC's purview.

And while SBDCs try to offer at least 50 percent of their services to low-moderate income level individuals, their services are available to any small business in need of assistance.

As those small businesses grow, they hire employees, putting people back to work. Those people can then afford homes and retail goods, improving the fortunes of other industries. And everyone ends up paying tax dollars, ultimately balancing the government's budget.

But when new small businesses fail, the ventures only result in more unemployed Americans, setting back any hope of recovery.

A new report, authored by the National Small Business Development Center Advisory Board, finds that SBDCs improve startup small businesses' chances for success. Additionally, SBDC counseling improves the chances of small businesses in obtaining credit.

“Small Business Development Centers give new and growing small businesses the resources they need throughout the year to grow and create jobs,” said U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills.  “The soundness of our economy depends on stable small businesses across the country and SBDCs are front and center helping entrepreneurs start, grow and expand their companies. These institutions reflect the diversity and individuality of their nearly 900 home towns and play an active and vital role in those.”

Nationwide, more than 557,000 entrepreneurs were helped by SBDCs in the last year alone.

In the University of California, Merced SBDC Regional Network, which covers 15 Central California counties including Stanislaus and Merced counties, more than 2,290 entrepreneurs received 14,267 hours of business advice and technical assistance last year. The effort resulted in $14.6 million in new capital investment, resulting in 655 new or retained jobs.

Since the UC Merced SBDC Regional Network's July 2003 formation, more than 13,000 clients have been seen, 602 new businesses were started, 3,822 jobs were created or retained, and nearly $160 million in new capital investment occurred.

 

Local impacts felt

The impacts of those programs can be seen locally, as downtown Turlock has played host to an SBDC satellite office for the past two-plus years. In the office's last year more than 100 clients have been counseled, leading to some notable successes.

Longstanding Turlock business Paul's Glass Company saw business surge by more than one-third in 2011, after SBDC consultation, according to Seaton, lead consultant at the Turlock Center of the Alliance SBDC.

“They've gone from struggling to actually doing very well,” Seaton said.

New businesses have seen similar successes. Through the help of the SBDC, Sheila Kendall was able to start A-PLUS Learning, a Turlock-based tutoring, counseling, and life-coaching business.

Kendall came to the SBDC in August with little more than an idea and past experience as a teacher and counselor. But with the SBDC's aid, she has since started a website, hired tutors, received a grant for startup costs, and navigated the tangled legal world of starting a business.

“We've just really networked and tried to connect with different people that we know can help us,” Kendall said. “We never would have been able to do all this by ourselves.”

For more information on Small Business Development Centers, visit www.alliancesbdc.com

For more information on A-Plus learning, visit aplusvalley.net or call 996-5264.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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