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SBDC lends a hand to local entrepreneurs

A new program in Lehigh’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will offer business consulting, entrepreneurial training and information access and transfer to existing and prospective entrepreneurs in South Bethlehem to help them maximize growth and increase profits.

The new South Bethlehem Assistance Program (SBAP) is the SBDC’s first geographically targeted program. It will actively seek pre-venture and established businesses in South Bethlehem and provide training, counseling assistance, and referrals to other agencies.

The opportunities for exchange of services and interaction between South Bethlehem businesses and Lehigh are great, says Christine Cleaver, new SBAP program director and former chief of planning and executive director of economic development for the city of Easton.

“The SBAP can help us all reap the rewards of better communication,” she says. “And as we promote the wealth of businesses available within minutes of the campus to Lehigh students, faculty and staff, we are concomitantly encouraging local entrepreneurs to utilize the resources Lehigh has to offer.”

SBDC director Sandra Holsonback says her center has worked with small business owners in all industries for 30 years. With the new SBAP, she says, “we want South Bethlehem to take advantage of what we offer in its own backyard.”

The SBAP will focus the SBDC’s strengths in business counseling, training, and outreach in South Bethlehem and couple them with increased opportunities for student involvement in real-world, practical, results-oriented projects in multiple disciplines, she says.

“Communication, collaboration, marketing, and technical assistance are all brought together under one roof,” Holsonback says.

Identifying a community’s needs

The creation of the SBAP is an outgrowth of the work completed by the South Bethlehem Project Committee, which met with community representatives to identify needs and develop programs to benefit businesses in South Bethlehem. In addition to Holsonback, members of the South Bethlehem Project Committee are:

- Todd Watkins, director of the Entrepreneurship Program
- Bill Michalerya, associate vice president for government relations and economic development
- Dale Kochard, executive director of community and regional affairs
- Jim Mann, leadership gifts officer, College of Business and Economics
- Steve Thode, director of the Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies
- Tony Hanna, director of economic development for the City of Bethlehem

In partnership with Lehigh’s Entrepreneurship Program and Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies, the SBAP also hopes to provide real-world learning opportunities for Lehigh students. Projects could include commercial development, small business, City of Bethlehem initiatives, and other nonprofit activities.

“As a center within the College of Business and Economics (CBE), the SBDC serves the entire university as well as our community,” says CBE dean Paul R. Brown. “We believe there is a substantive value-added role for the center to play that is directly aligned with the community component of the university’s ten-year strategic plan.”

Brown also characterized the SBDC as a “wonderful resource for our community as well as a wonderful laboratory for our students and faculty.”

The SBAP has already hosted two seminars for South Side businesses, and will offer its introductory program on starting a small business, The First Step, in Spanish in early 2010.

Lehigh’s SBDC is part of an accredited network of small business centers throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico, with the state of Pennsylvania hosting 18 at colleges and universities. The centers are funded by federal, state and host institutions.

One of the oldest and largest in the state, the SBDC at Lehigh serves the Lehigh, Northampton, Upper Bucks and Upper Montgomery counties. It is the oldest continually federally-funded program at Lehigh.


 

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, December 04, 2009

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