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UConn to host state’s Small Business Development Center

The University of Connecticut will take over as host institution of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (SBDC) starting in January.

With more than 900 offices nationwide, SBDCs provide management and technical assistance and training — often at little or no cost — to business owners and entrepreneurs looking to launch a business.

The program is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), state governments, other public and private organizations and colleges and universities. Since 1990, Congress has required that all new SBDC hosts be institutions of higher education or women’s business development centers.

The University of Connecticut has received a letter of intent from the SBA for it to host the Connecticut SBDC starting Jan. 1, 2013, and is currently working to finalize a contract with the SBA, said Steve Criss, director of marketing and communications for UConn’s Office of Economic Development.

The Connecticut State University System has served as host of the Connecticut SBDC since January 2007, with the lead SBDC office at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, satellite SBDC offices in Hartford, Willimantic, New Haven, Waterbury, Norwich, and Bridgeport, and an SBDC office specializing in international trade in Middletown.

Criss said UConn is still discussing the proposed budget and other aspects of how the Connecticut SBDC is to be structured following the transition. As of Dec. 24, Criss said the university had no further comment.

Ginne-Rae Clay, current state director of the Connecticut SBDC, confirmed that UConn will be the new host starting in January, but directed all other questions to UConn.

The Connecticut SBDC is partially funded by the SBA, with other partners including the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the nonprofit Association of Small Business Development Centers.

SBDCs, both in Connecticut and nationally, work with businesses to develop business plans, secure financing and procure contracts, among other areas, through individual consultations, various events and workshops.

Additionally, SBDCs offer assistance and consultations in areas such as international trade, e-commerce, and regulatory compliance, as well as working with returning veterans and with businesses impacted by natural disasters.

With UConn as host, the Connecticut SBDC will have 10 service centers, including the lead SBDC office at the university’s Storrs campus and three satellite locations in Fairfield County, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Nationally, SBDCs helped more than 13,660 entrepreneurs to launch businesses last year and provided counseling services to more than 106,000 entrepreneurs and another 100,000 existing business owners in all, according to the SBA.

SBDCs also provided training services to more than 350,000 clients in 2011.

In a survey of SBDC clients conducted by the SBA, more than 80 percent of those who responded said the business assistance they received was worthwhile, and more than 50 percent said that SBDC guidance was beneficial in making the decision to start a business.

Based on the results of the survey, more than 40 percent of long-term SBDC clients — classified as those who received five hours or more of counseling reported an increase in sales, while more than 38 percent of long-term clients reported an increase in profit margins.

More than 40 percent of long-term Small Business Development Center clients – classified as those who received five hours or more of counseling – reported an increase in sales, while more than 38 percent of long-term clients reported an increase in profit margins.

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