Via Maine Biz
A bill sponsored by Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine 2nd District, to reauthorize and expand the Small Business Development Center program, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Monday.What is the Maine SBDC?
The bipartisan Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act increases the money available for the program by $40 million, to $175 million a year from 2020 through 2023. The $136 million annual allotment the program now has was set when it was last reauthorized in 2006.
The bill also allows SBDCs to market their services, which, Golden said, will broaden their reach and give businesses in rural areas more access.
Maine has 22 SBDC outreach locations, which, as part of the U.S. Small Business Administration, provide low- or no-cost business training and advising for small-business owners, or those who want to start a business. The program was established in 1958 and began in Maine in 1977.
Rep. Auma Aumata Coleman Radewagen, a Republican who represents American Samoa, co-sponsored the bill, which now goes to the U.S. Senate.
Golden, who is the chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure, said in a news release that the legislation makes more resources available to SBDCs and improves the program to bring the free services they offer to even more small businesses in Maine.
Mark Delisle, director of Maine SBDC said last month, “Reauthorizing the SBDC program will be instrumental in continuing to support entrepreneurs as they start and grow small businesses in Maine and across the country.”
‘Thousands of Maine SBDC success stories’
Speaking to the House before Monday’s vote, Golden emphasized the importance of the kind of services the SBDC program offers in rural areas.
“Since coming to Congress 10 months ago, I’ve been focused on protecting jobs in the state of Maine,” Golden said. “And that means helping small businesses succeed. Thousands of small businesses in my state have launched or grown with help from Small Business Development Centers.”
Golden cited several businesses in his district as he called for support of the bill: The Maine Meal in Skowhegan, which was able to buy a building with SBDC help; The Milkhouse in Monmouth, which got accounting and tax advice that enabled it to grow its dairy products business; and Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn, which received help with a business plan that allowed it to secure financing needed to continue.
Golden said he visited each of the businesses. “I’ve seen their work firsthand,” he said. “These are just a few of the thousands of the SBDC success stories in the state of Maine.
“Given that Small Business Development Centers are the largest resource partner to SBA, it’s particularly important for Congress to keep the the program up to date and performing at a high level for small businesses throughout the country.”
He said it’s particularly important for small businesses in rural communities, in partnership with regional economic development entities, “to access valuable assistance.”
He said the changes to the act, first authorized in 1958, make changes that improve oversight and the ability of SBDCs to partner with other entities, as well as improve its voice.
Getting the word out
Golden said he’s particularly glad that amendments to the act clarify that centers may market and advertise their services.
“Rural access to SBA programs is key for states like Maine and many rural communities all over the country,” he said.
Expanded ability to market is key, Maine SBDC director Delisle told Mainebiz last year.
“In Maine we have a pretty robust network of products and services that you don’t find in other states, but one of the biggest challenges is, how can we get what can be a confusing stream of acronyms to make sense to [entrepreneurs]?” he said.
He said the variety of groups that can provide services lack resources to do the kind of public outreach and marketing that would make it clear what the groups are, what role they play and how the public can best use them.
In 2018, Maine’s 22 SBDCs provided services to more than 1,500 small businesses, launched 136 new ones, and created or protected more than 800 jobs.
Businesses that took advantage of Maine’s SBDCs in 2017 generated $44 million in revenue, Delisle said. He said the biggest overall resource the program provides is helping potential business owners understand what’s involved in starting and running a business.
“They may have a skill set, but are not really familiar with running a small business,” he said. “They may make a great pie, or beer, or be a great life coach, but that doesn’t mean they understand how to put a business model together.”
Small businesses succeeding
Golden, in a news release Monday, said, “Helping small businesses succeed is the most important thing we can do to protect good jobs in Maine. Small Business Development Centers are doing that work in nearly every corner of our state, providing Mainers with the know-how and expertise to start a business or keep it growing.”
He said the SBDC program was a help to his own business, the Bangor Pet Resort. “Making sure that SBDCs are able to assist other Mainers who want to start their own small businesses is important to me,” he said in the release.
Abdifatah Ahmed, of the Community Caring Clinic, in Bangor, said the SBDC was “a big part of my successful work … they helped us [add] to our business plan.”
Ahmed said in the release: “I’m glad to see Congressman’s Golden’s bill to improve and expand the SBDC program and continue their work to help businesspeople like me start and grow their businesses in Maine.”