Mason Receives SBA Grant to Host Small Business Centers

Posted: January 17, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Amy Biderman

George Mason has received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to host the network of Virginia small business development centers (VSBDC). The offices and staff will be based at the Mason Enterprise Center (MEC).

“This award will result in many exciting opportunities for George Mason as well as Northern Virginia,” says Keith Segerson, associate director of MEC. “As a result of our statewide presence, we can leverage the VSBDC network in ways we never have before. The expertise and skill sets of other regional affiliates now will extend to Northern Virginia.”

Regions include Potomac, based at Mason; Central, based at James Madison University; Southwest, based at Radford University; Southern, based at Longwood University; and Hampton Roads, based at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

The VSBDC network provides professional counseling, training, and technical assistance to people who are starting or expanding their companies. Course topics range from accounting principles and product licensing to tax planning and e-commerce. In addition, the centers maintain a vast network of specialized resource partners that can be consulted for specific business needs.

“This network provides a broad and diverse set of laboratories for testing new methods for the delivery of services to small businesses,” says Roger Stough, director of MEC. “As a result, the Mason Enterprise Center’s evolving role as a regional and national knowledge center for entrepreneurial services is enhanced.”

The SBA contract with George Mason began on Jan. 1. Jody Keenan of MEC has been named the interim VSBDC director while a search for the permanent director is under way. The network formerly was hosted in Richmond by the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, which made the decision to relinquish the role as a result of budget reductions.

Segerson says this is a unique example of an instance when a public university has assumed responsibility for a statewide service that was based within a state government agency. A coalition that includes three other major universities, the Virginia Community College System, and the Alexandria, Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Roanoke Chambers of Commerce supported the selection of Mason to host the network.

“Through our leadership and successes in Northern Virginia, the coalition embraced and endorsed George Mason in its proposal to the SBA,” Segerson says.

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