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By PBN Staff
By PBN Staff
PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Small Business Development Center, which will be hosted at the University of Rhode Island beginning Jan. 1, will operate a central office at URI’s South Kingstown campus and three sub-center offices in Smithfield, South Kingstown and Providence, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced at a Thursday morning press conference.
The conference, held in Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s office in the Statehouse, followed a news release the SBA sent out Tuesday announcing that URI had been awarded the contract to operate the SBDC as Johnson & Wales University ends its eight-year stewardship of the center.
The SBDC will operate out of the URI Division of Research and Economic Development. James K. Petell, URI associate vice president for intellectual property and economic development, will serve as interim state director of the center until the university can recruit a permanent state director and assistant state director.
The state director will manage the SBDC’s programs and services and recruit program managers to staff the three SBDC sub-center offices, which will be located at the Bryant University Chafee Center for International Business, the URI College of Business in South Kingstown and the URI Research Foundation at the R.I. Economic Development Corporation in Providence.
“The SBA is pleased to welcome the University of Rhode Island into the SBA family,” said Mark S. Hayward, director of the SBA Rhode Island District Office. “We are excited about this choice and believe that the university’s vision for providing value-added service to the Rhode Island small-business community will be a tremendous boost to the state’s economy.”
The federal agency is awarding an initial grant of $574,667 for the operation of the SBDC, and will provide additional funding each calendar year. URI must match the grant with cash and in-kind contributions.
A release issued in advance of the Thursday press conference outlined URI’s vision for the center. The SBDC will work closely with the URI Business Engagement Center, which was established in September to link Rhode Island businesses with URI’s resources, students and faculty. URI expects the Business Engagement Center to act as a source of referrals to the SBDC, depending on the needs of inquiring companies, according to the release.
In addition, URI said, university faculty, staff and students will provide in-depth business counseling at the URI College of Business sub-center, while the sub-center at Bryant will offer counseling on international business and export development in addition to general counseling. At the URI Research Foundation sub-center, staff responsible for marketing and business development and staff of the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Partnership will provide advanced counseling and advice.
All four SBDC centers will engage outside experts to provide legal, financial and accounting services as well as professional guidance on topics such as intellectual property, international trade, export and auditing.
“We’re pleased to lead the R.I. Small Business Development Center and strengthen the university’s role in partnering with and providing resources to the business community to create jobs and build a strong economy,” said URI President David M. Dooley in a prepared statement. “While the role of the SBDC is clearly to provide support and guidance to the business community, its location at URI will enable us to more fully use our faculty, staff and students as resources to drive economic development.”
The university also emphasized its intention to partner with organizations like the Center for Women and Enterprise and the Opportunities Industrialization Center to improve support for minority- and women-owned businesses in Rhode Island. Other external SBDC partners will include the Service Corps of Retired Executives and the South Eastern Economic Development Corp.
“I am thrilled that the Small Business Development Center has a home at the University of Rhode Island where its staff members will be able to continue their work of helping Rhode Island entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Chafee in prepared remarks. “Through programs such as this one, the SBDC is providing key support to local companies to ensure they are sustainable and continue to grow our economy.”
The Small Business Development Center program is the largest government-funded management- and technical-assistance program for small businesses, operating 63 lead centers throughout the United States. SBDC services include assisting small businesses with financial, marketing, production, organization, engineering and technical problems and conducting feasibility studies.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, businesses interested in the R.I. SBDC’s services can call the URI center’s information phone number at (401) 874-7232.