PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Small Business Development Center is moving from the location it has had since 2006 at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, according to center State Director Adriana Dawson.
The center’s contract for space at the Johnson & Wales campus on Weybosset Street ends at the finish of calendar year 2013. The U.S. Small Business Administration put out a request for proposals from other colleges and universities in the state to host the site, said Dawson. Deadline for the proposals was Oct. 3, but because of the government shutdown and federal employees on furlough, the Small Business Development Center hasn’t had further communication from the national or district SBA offices, she said.
The move comes as a result of Johnson & Wales’ notification to the SBA in the spring that it would no longer host the center at the end of the contract, said university spokeswoman Lisa Pelosi.
The Small Business Development Center was at Bryant University until it moved to Johnson and Wales in 2006.
“Back in 2006 we had new strategic plan for the university, and we felt that hosting the Small Business Development Center would be helping our students because of our belief in the value of internships and having our students work with businesses,” said Pelosi.
“Since 2006, we’ve gone through another strategic planning process and we decided the best use of our human and financial resources would no longer be to host the SBDC,” Pelosi said. “We have been going forward with other initiatives, such as providing stipends for students who are in unpaid internships.”
The SBDC has provided extensive experiential learning opportunities for Johnson & Wales students, said Dawson.
“During the 2011-2102 academic year we worked with 270 students, who supported 129 of our clients, who are small businesses,” said Dawson. “That translates into 6,000 student hours and resulted in 130 projects.”
Students assist small businesses with projects such as business plans, marketing campaigns and website development, said Dawson.
The SBDC staff are employees of the university. The center had 11 employees when fully staffed and now has seven, Dawson said.
About half the funding for the SBDC, or about $625,000, is from SBA. In addition to staffing the center, Johnson & Wales provided $250,000 annually in addition to a matching amount of in-kind services including office space and equipment, Dawson said.
The state contribution to the SBDC, through the R.I. Economic Development Corporation was $42,000 for fiscal year 2014, said Dawson.
Despite the impending move and the uncertainty caused by the furlough of SBA staff, Dawson said the productive work of the center will continue.
“The Small Business Development Center is part of a national model, and we’ve made tremendous strides in providing critical resources to the small business community,” Dawson said. “We’re focused on continuing the good work that we do. The only thing that’s going to change is the host institution.”
Dawson had no information at the current time as to which state colleges or universities may have bid on hosting the center.
According to Pelosi, the center will vacate its current offices by the end of 2013.
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