THE U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION has awarded the University of Rhode Island the contract to operate the R.I. Small Business Development Center as Johnson & Wales University walks away from the program.
PROVIDENCE – The University of Rhode Island has been awarded the contract to operate the state’s Small Business Development Center, according to a release sent out by the U.S. Small Business Administration Tuesday.
The announcement comes as Johnson & Wales University ends its eight-year stewardship of the center, which is dedicated to helping small businesses in the state by providing individual counseling, group programs and other services.
Johnson & Wales did not bid on the contract, deciding that the experiential learning its students received through participation in the center’s programs did not work as well as the school had hoped when it bid in 2006 to take over the SBDC from Bryant University, which had hosted it from its founding in 1983.
It is not clear yet exactly how URI will structure the SBDC. The local SBA office was not available immediately for comment, and a URI spokeswoman declined to answer questions, deferring to the SBA in making the announcement. The details are scheduled to be released Thursday, Dec. 19, at a press conference to be held in Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s office in the Statehouse.
One detail did emerge from the release put out by the SBA – the federal agency is awarding $574,000 to URI for the operation of the SBDC, less than the $625,000 it contributed for 2013. It is not clear what contributions, either in cash or in kind, URI will make to the center, nor whether it will seek partners to build out the center’s capabilities.
Johnson & Wales had contributed $250,000 annually to the center, as well as in-kind services that included office space and equipment.
A URI spokeswoman previously told Providence Business News that the new SBDC would have offices at the school’s South Kingstown campus as well as in Providence.
The SBDC currently employs seven staff members, but once employed as many as 11. The center counseled 700 clients in 2012, 70 percent of them existing businesses and 30 percent startups. In a previous story by PBN, current State Director Adriana Dawson said 270 students took part in SBDC activities, working with 129 small businesses and contributing 6,000 student hours.