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In the News

WSU Priority for 2016 Legislative Session – helping small businesses succeed


The Everett Herald reports on the value of keeping the doors open at the Small Business Development Center of Snohomish County. The paper shares the services provided for 34 years to local businesses and entrepreneurs and how the local community has come together to keep the doors open in the face of budget cuts. WSU is a key partner in the Small Business Development Centers and is asking the legislature for $1 million in funds to expand small business technical support, development, and consultations to first time or challenged entrepreneurs.

Kari Bray – The Everett Herald

EVERETT — The small business development center for Snohomish County cobbled together enough money to keep the doors open in 2016 but needs to find a stable source of funding to last beyond this year.
The center, one of 25 across the state, helps current and prospective small-business owners with planning, marketing and research. It’s been in Everett for 34 years, said Jennifer Shelton, business adviser and center director. She works with several entrepreneurs every day.

“We talk through their goals, their challenges, provide technical support,” Shelton said. “The industries that we see range from services-based to manufacturing, construction and retail.”
Washington was one of the first states to pilot small-business development centers 36 years ago. Now, there are offices and advisers in every state, said Duane Fladland, president of the Washington State Small Business Development Center Network. They help business owners with tough, risky decisions and coach them through starting, running and growing their company. It’s free and confidential.

The federal Small Business Administration provides money for the centers but requires matching dollars. In the past, Edmonds Community College has covered the full match, about $60,000 a year. However, the college has cut its contribution down to $20,000 as part of an effort to shift more of the college’s budget toward its educational programs.

“We see lots of value in the small business development center, but it’s a decision we had to make,” spokeswoman Marisa Pierce said. “We will continue to support the center.”

The federal government ended up providing more money than expected and the Everett center was saved from closing this year, Fladland said. The center’s budget pays for Shelton’s position as a full-time business adviser along with a part-time administrator and supplies.

“Going into calendar year ’17, that’s when we’ll be worried,” Fladland said. Local cities have pledged money to support the center and others are considering it. So far, though, nothing’s been finalized.

Washington State University, which acts as the host for the small business development center network, plans to ask the state Legislature this session to match the federal funding for Washington’s business centers.

“If that happens, it’s a game changer for us,” Fladland said. “It would stabilize our funding. Getting stable funding, for any organization, is the eternal issue.”

dte_work_2The Everett office shares space with Economic Alliance Snohomish County at 808 134th St. SW. Shelton works mostly with businesses that employ fewer than 20 people. Many of them don’t have the resources to do their own market studies, or they have questions about investments but can’t afford to hire a consultant. Keeping small businesses afloat, and in turn protecting the jobs and products or services they provide, is what the centers exist to do. They work closely together and share expertise across county and state lines, she said.

“It’s like a whole team of experts behind their business,” Shelton said. “We have knowledge and resources they might not realize are there for them.”

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