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Development centers want to do more

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

South Dakota business-advisory network celebrates 30 productive years

 

An experienced network of business advisers across South Dakota is celebrating its 30th anniversary by encouraging business people and entrepreneurs to check with one of the organization’s regional offices for free help.

South Dakota Small Business Development Centers have an impressive record of assisting new and growing businesses throughout the state, and they can provide even more help, says Jeff Eckhoff, state director.

“We’re one of the unsung gems of South Dakota’s growing business community, and we want to do more to help bolster the state’s economy,” Eckhoff says. “We want to spread the word that our advisers and other staff members have the experience, skill and capacity to help even more businesses start, expand and improve their operations.”

The South Dakota SBDC is a member of a national association, America’s SBDC, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The South Dakota network is five years younger.

The South Dakota SBDC is funded primarily by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It also receives assistance from the Citi Foundation and Xcel Energy. The state office of the SBDC is hosted by the Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Regional offices are located in Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown and Yankton. Satellite offices are located in Brookings and Mitchell.

In addition to its ties to the SBA and GOED, the South Dakota SBDC is the umbrella organization for four other statewide programs that assist businesses:

  • South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions offices in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and a new one that will be opened soon to serve the northeastern part of the state. They provide services specifically designed to help manufacturers become more efficient and profitable.
  • South Dakota Procurement Technical Assistance Centers in Sioux Falls, Pierre, Rapid City and Yankton, which help businesses compete for government contracts.
  • International Trade Center, which assists businesses with exporting activities.
  • Small Business Innovation Research program, which helps businesses with commercialization potential compete for funding awards.

 

“We practice the no-wrong-door approach. If you get into our network, chances are we can help you or get you to the right place,” Eckhoff says. “We like to think of our office as a good first stop for any business looking for help.”

SBDC services are designed for small businesses, meaning companies with fewer than 500 employees. Consulting services generally are free. However, there might be a charge for special services, such as those under the MTS program or for training.

Output exceeds norm

During the past 12 years, South Dakota SBDC offices have helped clients raise more than a $1 billion in capital, primarily through loans and investments, says Mark Slade, regional director of the SBDC office in Sioux Falls and the associate state director.

“A common thread for many of our clients is the need for help with a budget to acquire a loan. Whether they’re an existing business that’s expanding, putting up a building, buying a business or starting one from scratch, it’s going to require some financing,” Slade says.

The network doesn’t just help new businesses get started. Statewide, nearly a third of SBDC clients come from existing businesses. Many business people don’t realize the wealth of services and staff experience available at centers, Slade says.

“We have longstanding consultants who have had the opportunity to build relationships in their communities,” he says. The average business consultant in the network has more than 10 years of experience.

First Manufacturing LLC in Humboldt is among the businesses that Slade has personally assisted. Kevin and Emily Berg own the company, which uses computerized (CNC) equipment and a staff of seven people to custom-make advanced parts and fixtures.

Kevin Berg says company leaders have consulted with the Sioux Falls SBDC office several times and always have enjoyed the experience. “We basically use Mark Slade for projections to see if our ideas make sense to help us get financing,” Berg says.

John Brown II, district director for the SBA in South Dakota, says the accomplishments of SBDC offices in the state dramatically exceed what might be expected of the organization, based on the population of the market. “Their output far exceeds the norm across the country,” he says.

SBDC services have expanded significantly in recent years with the creation of new offices and programs, but one-on-one business consulting remains the network’s specialty, Brown says. “The SDBC, over the last 10 years, has become a phenomenal, full-service organization,” he says.

For more information about the South Dakota SBDC, see www.sdbusinesshelp.com or call (605) 367-5757.

 

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