The R.I. Small Business Development Center is getting back into motion after six months of restructuring as a result of its move from Johnson & Wales University to the University of Rhode Island.
New SBDC State Director Mark A. Stewart is at the helm at the URI campus in South Kingstown. Three regional directors and an administrative assistant have been hired, and three more hires are expected soon, including a bilingual business counselor, said Stewart, who began on June 23 and who has more than 20 years of experience in business management.
The potential for growth of small businesses in Rhode Island appealed to Stewart, whose previous position was director of the Small Business Center at Halifax Community College in Weldon, N.C., for four years.
“Rhode Island is a different culture and environment. In North Carolina, I serviced two large counties with high dropout rates, high unemployment, a high crime rate and a high illiteracy rate,” said Stewart. “There was very low opportunity for economic development, so I had to come up with strategies designed for that region.”
Stewart brings with him a universal perspective that he found encourages the growth of small business.
“You still have the core mission – dealing with people who have goals, who have ambitions, who have dreams,” said Stewart. “My goal in Rhode Island is to assist people with their goals and ambitions and dreams, and when their businesses thrive, it’s good for the state.”
One clear difference from his previous region is that Rhode Island has a substantial Latino population. That’s why Stewart is hiring a bilingual business counselor to be based in the new location of the SBDC Providence regional office at the R.I. Commerce Corporation.