Here are the centers that stand out as the most active and influential small business development centers across the country—providing exceptional support for their local entrepreneurial communities.
To read about one of our top SBDCs, click on one of the cities highlighted on this map.
There are more than 900 small business development centers in the United States. Sponsored by the Small Business Association, these centers are often run in partnership with state and local governments, colleges, and the private sector. Counselors are on hand to help an entrepreneur craft a business plan, fill out a loan application, or come up with a winning marketing strategy.
"The SBDCs exist to help entrepreneurs and small business owners obtain capital to support their companies, and make better decisions on key aspects of their business operations," says Antonio Doss, associate administrator for the Office of Small Business Development Centers, a group within the SBA that coordinates the program. "The advisors at the SBDCs work with entrepreneurs to make the necessary adjustments to establish a business that's sustainable and profitable."
SBDCs also assist companies in gaining access to capital—a service that has been particularly crucial of late. In 2009 and again last year, SBDCs nationally helped clients secure funding in excess of $3.8 billion in the form of debt, equity, and grant money. "It was surprising the amount of support SBDC's were able to get in the area of capital infusion," Doss says. "We expected to see a downturn the last two years but our business advisors were able to help clients get additional money because of the relationships they have in the lending community."
To help identify the most active and innovative SBDCs around the country, a team of Inc.com reporters interviewed 45 entrepreneurs and small business advocates. The centers that stand out provide exceptional support for their local entrepreneurial communities while at the same time they serves as national models for effective small business advocacy.
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An SBDC for First-Time Federal Contractors - Washington, D.C.
The District of Columbia Small Business Development Center prides itself on its ability to help business owners navigate the daunting and complicated road to becoming a federal government contractor. Read More
The Georgia State University Small Business Development Center provides excellent leadership training through the award-winning Kauffman Foundation's FastTrac GrowthVenture program. They have helped hundreds of small business owners become better managers. Read More
A Local SBDC Sharing Resources Nationally - Boise, Idaho
To help small businesses nationwide—as well as counselors at other SBDCs—the Idaho Small Business Center at Boise State University has built a comprehensive website that links to a variety of helpful resources. Read More
An SBDC With a Unique Bank Partnership - San Bernardino, California
Located inside of a bank branch, the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center is California's largest SBDC, and one that prides itself on its ability to help clients gain access to capital. Read More
An SBDC Helping Businesses With Social Media - Council Bluffs, Iowa
The Iowa Western Community College Entrepreneurial & Small Business Development Center is a nexus of social media activity in the heartland. Counselors teach business owners about social media, search engine optimization, and other rapidly changing online marketing strategies. Read More
An SBDC Focused on University Research - South Bend, Indiana
When the local RV industry fell on hard times, the North Central Indiana Small Business Development Center focused on helping businesses in the region spur innovation. The center's Pre-Seed Workshop is designed to help researchers at the University of Notre Dame commercialize their ideas. Read More
An SBDC Serving a Largely Rural Territory - Concordia, Kansas
North Central Kansas Small Business Development Center serves 11 counties with a population of about 125,000 people. The SBDC's staff is helping farmers to diversify their revenue streams, bringing together women entrepreneurs, and providing training, mentoring and gap-financing for local businesses. Read More
An SBDC Helping Businesses to Export - San Antonio
By specializing in facilitiating trade relationships across the Mexican border, the San Antonio Small Business Development Center has helped entrepreneurs to generate $181 million in export-driven sales. Read More
An SBDC That Focuses on Cash Flow - Vancouver, Washington
Financial literacy for entrepreneurs is at the heart of what Vancouver Small Business Development Center provides its clients. The center's "Profit Mastery" series helps small businesses grapple with cash flow issues; the SBDC also works with business to find angels and other investors. Read More
An SBDC That Turned Things Around - Baltimore
The Maryland Small Business Development Center, Central Region went from one of the worst performing SBDCs in Maryland to one of the best. A new director helped transform the center in less than a year—and she is just getting started. Read More
As a senior producer TIFFANY BLACK works to increase our audience through social media. She covers technology for Inc. Technology, coordinates Inc. Live chats and finds document templates for business owners. Tiffany also teaches Writing and Editing for the Web, Introduction to Blogging, Introduction to Social Media and Advanced Social Media at Mediabistro. She lives in Manhattan.
LOU DUBOIS is a Philadelphia-based Social Media Editor for NBC Universal's local news affiliate (WCAU-TV). He is an experienced writer, editor and marketer who has worked with and written about Fortune 500 companies and small businesses, focusing on social media, emerging technologies, small business success, entrepreneurship, sports business and corporate policy. Previously he worked for Social Media Today, Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press and SOBeFit Magazine, along with various newspapers.
VENURI SIRIWARDANE's work has appeared on Inc.com, and in the Newark, New Jersey Star-Ledger, USA Today, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, among other publications.