News Column

SBA, Conn. Debut System of Small Business Centers

March 6, 2013

Brian Dowling, The Hartford Courant

Connecticut is relaunching about a dozen small businesses advisory centers as part of a partnership with the federal government, chambers of commerce and state universities.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development and the federal Small Business Administration are covering equal parts of the 5-year program's $11.6 million budget.

"I look at this as yet another step in the right direction of being able to have a one-stop shop to help large businesses and small businesses with a new and reinviorated tool set and great partners on the federal side," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. "When we talk about building a partnership between state government and the businesses community, this is exactly what we mean."

The program will provide management and business development consulting, government contracting assistance, assistance with international trade and startup help to businesses with less than 500 employees.

The 11 centers -- expected to all be online by the spring or summer -- will be located at seven chambers of commerce, five regional University of Connecticut campuses and the federal export assistance center in Middletown. The systems hub center is already running at UConn's main campus in Storrs.

A former system of small businesses development centers was run out of the Central Connecticut State University.

"The reinvigorated Small Business Development Center takes our economic development strategy to a new level, combining the academic strength and resources of our flagship university with the knowledge and reach of our chambers of commerce, to bring technical and financial assistance to the sector responsible for the overwhelming majority of our jobs: small businesses," Malloy said.

DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith expects the centers to integrate the state's many small business assistance programs into a "unified, agile, and responsive team that is focused on identifying and responding to the needs of our private sector partners."

Jeanne Hulit, the SBA's associate administrator for the office of capital access, said the strength of the centers is their ability to help small businesses "leverage limited resources."

"In this critical time, when job creation is on everyone's mind, the partnership between the SBA and its state partners is more important than ever," she said, adding that state businesses are already making more use of SBA resources, noting an 11 percent increase in lending from the administration to state firms.

For the university, the program "builds on existing strengths and allows us to connect with exciting new programs within the business community," said UConn's head of economic development Mary Holz-Clause, who runs the center with Chris Bruhl, chief executive of the Business Council of Fairfield County.

Other centers will be a the UConn Stamford Campus, the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the UConn Avery Point Campus, the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce in Middletown, the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce, the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce in Bristol, the UConn Torrington Campus, and the UConn Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford.

Source: (c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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