Albany, NY – New York State Small Business Development Center (NYSBDC) State Director, Sonya Smith, testified in front of the House Committee on Small Business during their hearing, "Assisting Entrepreneurs: Examining Private and Public Resources Helping Small Businesses." During her testimony, Smith showcased the critical ways that Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), administered by SUNY, foster entrepreneurship, assist in workforce development, and play a key role in linking New York State's business pipelines with its higher education ecosystem.
Smith, representing a network of twenty-two New York State Small Business Development Centers (NYSBDCs), underscored the importance of the strategic partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY) and other academic host institutions in stimulating the state's economy. In 2022 alone, the NYSBDC catered to over 24,000 businesses and facilitated more than $475 million in financial impact to New York State, underscoring its pivotal role in driving its economic vitality.
In comments after her testimony, she highlighted this partnership. "With the unique partnership we have with SUNY, CUNY, and our other host institutions, we can bring together one of the country's most powerful higher education systems with one of the country's most powerful business ecosystems at the NYSBDC," said Smith. "SUNY's commitment and support for our program is critical in allowing us to advise and create economic opportunity, educate and build learning pathways, and research and provide data-driven solutions."
In her testimony, Smith underscored the vast diversity and scope of the NYSBDC network, illuminating how the organization's programming seeks to engage businesses at their unique points of need. In 2022, the NYSBDC's client base was impressively diverse: 47% were women, 40% were from minority groups, 15% hailed from rural areas, 6% were veterans, and 2% were individuals with disabilities. The NYSBDC's commitment to fostering diverse representation is embodied in its tailored programming, developed through insights from its on-the-ground business advisory network and the power of its long-standing NYSBDC Research Network.
"The SBDC program focus and outputs vary geographically, but all across the country, we have developed programs to respond to both the diversity in the communities we serve, the diverse needs of our small business clients, and the diversity within the SBDC workforce," said Smith.
She spotlighted various specialty programs, including the Disability Entrepreneurship Program, the Childcare Support Initiative, and Cybersecurity Program. She also highlighted the unique public-private partnerships that amplify the SBDC's impact in various areas, including youth entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, and workforce development.
Responding to questioning by Ranking Member Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, she discussed how SBDCs partner with host institutions to link the economic pipelines of the SBDC with SUNY-driven workforce programming.
"The apprenticeship program is a partnership program with SUNY, CUNY, and the Department of Labor. Our focus is the SBDC's being a main partner with the community colleges to help provide an apprenticeship program. This is also to develop webinars for our clients and advisors on workforce development. This focuses on how a business can register as a site for apprenticeship for on-the-job training. And on the other side, looking at the availability of training at the community colleges and the colleges in the area. If a business has some up-skill training they would like to do, they can participate in that and get the funds to help push forward the upward mobility of their workforce," said Smith.
The NYSBDC is a state-wide network of 22 regional centers and 70 satellite and outreach locations. Since the beginning of the program, the network has worked with more than 571,000 businesses, helping them to invest $8.4 billion in the state economy and create or save more than 261,000 jobs.
In addition to no-cost business advising from full-time professional business advisors and free and at-cost business training, the NYSBDC provides services in market research, international business development, government procurement, online entrepreneurial education, and MWBE advising and certification.
The NYSBDC works closely with state economic development agencies, faculty, students at host institutions, and representatives from private industry and business to focus resources on assisting NYS small business owners and entrepreneurs. It is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the State of New York, and regional centers' host campuses.