Springfield agency that helps small businesses receives national recognition

Everett Woodel, right, District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, presents Rob Alexander, Executive Director of the Springfield Small Business Development Center, with the award for being the Region 5 Small Business Development Center of the Year Thursday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Springfield’s Small Business Development Center was selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the winner of its “Excellence and Innovation” award for the Great Lakes Region.

The announcement was made by Ohio Lt. Gov. John Husted this week and the Springfield location was selected from a list of 101 centers in six states. The local small business development center was also named a finalist for the national version of the award.

Though it did not win the national distinction, it was one of ten centers in the country to be selected as a finalist. It’s an accomplishment none-the-less, said Rob Alexander, the executive director for the Springfield Small Business Development Center, which has been in the community since 1984.

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“For the past few years, we’ve put our head down and worked extremely hard to revamp our approach so that it provides an incredible amount of value to people,” Alexander added. “So it’s really awesome to stop, pick our head up, and realize that we’ve come a long way from where we were a few years ago.”

He said the center only has two full-time employees, but works with a number of contractors, working a few hours a week. The latter offer their expertise to local businesses looking to expand or develop an idea.

Contractors can help area entrepreneurs craft a business plan or aid them and offer advise in aspects such as advertising.

Alexander said the local center tries to find an expect in each of the major areas pertaining to properly running a business. He said some entrepreneurs use them as a sort of business coach, for others it is program based.

He added that the center worked with 275 businesses during the last fiscal year, which in turn created 133 jobs. He said with a budget of $250,000, it makes them one of the smaller business development centers in the state if not the smallest.

It serves businesses for free in Clark and Champaign Counties, but a majority of those that utilizes the center’s services are located in Springfield.

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“The (Small Business Development Center) is just one part, but an important one, in the entrepreneurial eco-system. We have to have an environment to nourish them,” Alexander said.

He said that the center has also participated in several programs that were rolled out last year. That includes Springfield Hustles, a “Shark Tank” style competition, that aims to give a boost to local entrepreneurs who either already had a business or were looking to start one.

Another one includes the Leadership Academy that worked with those between 18 and 24 years-old, who are on some form of public assistance but show leadership potential.

Alexander said the center worked with a group of 12 people, who were enrolled in the program, for a period of 12 weeks.

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