June 23, 2005--Funding remains the leading challenge for Women Business Centers, and a majority are still dissatisfied with a lack of Small Business Administration financial support, reported a new study by Babson College's Center for Women's Leadership.

The study was commissioned by the Association of Women's Business Centers and surveyed 52 WBC offices in 33 different states and the District of Columbia. The report also included interviews with 34 center directors.

Association of Women's Business Centers President Ann Marie Almeida said the study showed that that WBCs are more productive and in need of funds than ever.

The survey reported that more than 75% of Women Business Centers have significantly increased their number of clients in the past year.

Almeida said that investments in WBC have gone far -- some $37 million of federal funds invested in Women Business Centers over the past three years created $500 million in economic benefits, she said.

According to the report, SBA money accounts for 41% of a WBC office's funding, on average. Currently, a WBC may receive SBA funding through an annual competitive application process for a five-year period. Once those five years are completed, a center must rely completely on private funds.

The SBA has said it intends to pull funding from 11 of the oldest centers this September. The older centers will lose their funding to newer centers opening in their areas.

The SBA's Office of Women's Business Ownership had no comment on the study.