As states trim their budgets, many of the Small Business Administration's Small Business Development Centers may be forced to close. Programs run by the more than 1,000 centers served 650,000 entrepreneurs last year. But this year, the federal government doled out $37 million less to SBDCs than was originally approved.

Proponents of SBDCs howled at the cutbacks, especially since the centers typically produce a profit. "In every instance I know of, SBDCs return more to the Treasury than any other program," says Donald Wilson, president of the Association of Small Business Development Centers in the Washington, D.C., area.

California, which has a large SBDC network under assault, saw the program's $4 million state and local budget slashed, making it ineligible for another $8 million in federal funds. Small business owner Betty Jo Toccoli is organizing SBDC clients to lobby state legislators. The centers "got lost in the budget process," she says, but "a lot of legislators here in Sacramento have indicated a real desire to restore the funds as much as possible."

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