Proposed U.S. budget cuts could add to SBDC pain in New Hampshire

Sequestration has already cut NHSBDC’s funding by 8%

Proposed cuts to the Small Business Development Center program in President Obama’s 2014 budget would have a negative impact on the services that the New Hampshire SBDC is able to offer to small businesspeople in the state.

That’s the gist of a letter sent last week by First District Congresswoman Annie Kuster to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, urging the subcommittee to maintain funding for Small Business Development Centers at the 2012 fiscal year level.

The 2014 budget proposes cutting nearly $10 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s signature Small Business Development Center program, and funneling about $40 million into new entrepreneurial development programs.

Kuster wrote her own letter to the committee, which was similar in content to a “Dear Colleague” letter that had been signed in mid-May by 60 members of Congress, including Carol Shea-Porter, asking the subcommittee to restore SBDC funding to its 2012 level. 

In it, the lawmakers praise the SBDC program for its “proven record” of success, and question the administration’s prioritization of “the funding of several unauthorized pilot programs, which lack sufficient performance metrics and have not been thoroughly evaluated.”

In her letter, Kuster, a member of the House Small Business Committee, called the NHSBDC “an invaluable resource for the business community in my home state.”

In 2012, the New Hampshire SBDC provided one-on-one assistance to more than 800 businesses, and helped to start 40 new firms. The national cuts would amount to a loss of about $50,000 in direct federal funding to the New Hampshire SBDC, which – once accounting for the loss of matching state and private funds – would amount to a total loss of about $100,000. The cuts would eliminate two part-time business advisers, said Kuster.

The New Hampshire Small Business Development Center is headquartered in Durham at the UNH Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, and it has regional offices in Keene, Manchester, Nashua, Dover and throughout the North Country. It provides free technical assistance to small businesspeople, including helping them in developing business plans, finding financing, and offering procurement and contracting help. It has nine full-time staff members, as well as five part-time business advisers, according to New Hampshire state director Mary Collins.

“We are hoping that Congress restores the money,” said Collins. “The SBA has set aside $40 million for new initiatives, and we are asking that … the money be kept with the existing, known programs that are producing results.”

The proposed federal funding cuts come at a time when the NHSBDC lost 8 percent of its federal funding due to sequestration — a loss in the middle of the calendar year that forced it to eliminate two administrative positions.

“We had prepared possibly for a 5 percent reduction, but 8 percent was far more than we expected,” said Collins.

Another funding problem facing the NHSBDC is some $325,000 of funding provided through the 2010 JOBS Act that is set to end of 2013. That funding, which supported three part-time business advisers, amounted to the creation of 157 jobs and $3.8 million in capital formation in New Hampshire, said Collins.

She said she worries about the impact that the federal cuts could have on the services that the SBDC is able to provide to small businesspeople in New Hampshire.

“Here in New Hampshire, we continue to have a steady demand as we come out of the recession,” said Collins.

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