No. of employees: One Training coordinator and four part-time consultants
No. of clients: 619
Hours spent with clients: 5,979
Capital infusion: $7.8 million in 2010
What's noteworthy: This SBDC ceated an innovative and comprehensive web resource for use by entrepreneurs and other SBDCs around the U.S.
The allure of most SBDCs is that they focus intensely on the needs of the businesses in their communities. The Idaho Small Business Development Center at Boise State University is very active in its hometown. But the center also looks for opportunities to serve entrepreneurs far and wide and, in so doing, the center has become a thought leader in the world of small-business advocacy.
It all started during the most recent economic downturn. "Boise had been a hotbed for start-up companies spinning off technology or experience gained from working with Micron Technology and Hewlett Packard," says Rick Vycital, the director of the Idaho SBDC at BSU. "As those companies began to downsize, we found a greater need to service consulting-based business startups, so we've spent more time with development of new ideas, products and services which are new frontiers for those laid-off engineers and workers."
In response, the ISBDC launched Small Business Help Directory, a database of small business resources including links to informational tutorials, classes, and service providers for small businesses nationwide. Access to the directory is free, as are many of the resources highlighted within it.
Additionally, SBDCs and SCORE offices nationwide can post or retrieve information from the database, and the Idaho center encourages its peers to use the resources to create local applications. For example, the directory posts tutorials for small businesses on buying insurance; the site then prompts SBDC officials to post information on local underwriters and insurance laws. The result? An online system effectively simplifies a complicated, often time-consuming process while also cutting through the patchwork of state and local regulations that has made it hard in the past to create a national database of information.
On a more local level, the SBDC manages two incubators. Located on BSU's campus, the SBDC's TECenter works with technology start-ups. The incubator's clients employ 200 people and grossed more than $18 million in annual revenue last year with over $16 million of invested capital.
The center's other incubator, aptly called Greenhouse, is focused on supporting and advancing alternative-energy businesses. Greenhouse has the ability to house twelve companies while offering staff support from the SBDC on-site four hours a day and four days a week, and on an as-needed basis.
Both incubators were opened with the mentality that incubators are a better investment of government funding than any other infrastructure projects. This theory is supported by a 2008 study for the U.S. Economic Development Administration that business incubators produce local jobs and at a low cost to the government.
The center's largest client is Best Bath, a company that sells shower stalls. Vycital has worked with Best Bath's management team on a variety of projects—most recently, a cost-benefit analysis of enterprise resource planning systems. "To have an SBDC as smart and focused as we have here is a true blessing," says Jeff Mooney, Best Bath's executive vice president of sales and marketing. "The center is really just a great resource for business owners for whatever their needs are."
Officials at the Small Business Administration seem to agree with Mooney's assessment. In January, the agency awarded one of six $325,000 SBDC grants to Idaho's network of six SBDCs.
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. @lou_dubois