DEVELOPING STORY: Adriana Dawson, R.I. Small Business Development Center director, middle, speaks with with Operations Director Diane Fournaris, left, and Central and Southern Rhode Island Director Ardena Lee-Fleming at the center’s JWU home. URI has made a bid to host the center starting next year.
The University of Rhode Island is one of the bidders proposing to host the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center when the contract for its current space at Johnson & Wales University expires on Dec. 31.
“URI would be the main host,” said Katharine Flynn, executive director of the URI Business Engagement Center, who confirmed the university put in a proposal with the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C., by the Oct. 3 deadline.
“We would have a hub for the Small Business Development Center at two of our campuses – in [South Kingstown] and Providence,” said Flynn, who declined to say if there would be potential partners or provide more details about the proposal, citing the competitive bidding process.
Mark Hayward, Rhode Island district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, last week said there was no information available on potential bidders.
The seven staff members of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center – employees of Johnson & Wales University under the current contract – know they will be going somewhere when the year ends – perhaps to the state unemployment line.
“When the contract ends, there’s no guarantee the current employees will be transferred over with the program,” said Adriana Dawson, current state director of the small-business development center. She was assistant director of the program when it was housed previously at Bryant University.
“The new host has the ability to bring talent onboard where they see a good fit,” she said. “The current employees could resubmit applications to be considered for positions with the new host.”
The center needs to move because Johnson & Wales’ notified the SBA in the spring that it would no longer host the center at the end of the contract, said university spokeswoman Lisa Pelosi.
“Currently we have some information technology functions there and there’s the expectation that we would use that SBDC space for our IT functions,” said Pelosi.