MERCED, CA — UC Merced is taking on a major new role to stimulate regional economic growth with the award of a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) contract to provide leadership for the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in Central California.
Selected by officials at the SBA's Fresno district office, UC Merced was awarded an initial contract for more than $550,000, with a possible one-year contract extension for $1.1 million, to serve as the district's lead center. In that capacity, UC Merced will provide leadership and direct the delivery of services to business owners and entrepreneurs in 15 counties, including San Joaquin Valley, Sierra foothills and Central Coast communities.
"As a university for the San Joaquin Valley, we are dedicated to finding innovative ways to enhance and engage our communities by expanding economic opportunities," said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "UC Merced shares the SBA's commitment to support the development of small businesses, and this program meets important economic needs across Central California."
One of six lead centers in California, the UC Merced lead center will oversee the Fresno SBA districts SBDCs in Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, San Luis Obispo and Gilroy as well as satellite centers in Merced and Visalia. Previously, all SBDCs in California reported to the state's Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency.
"We look forward to partnering with Central California's SBDCs, which have distinguished themselves through strong leadership and successful efforts to stimulate growth," said Helen Sullivan, director of the UC Merced Division of Professional Studies, who also will serve as lead center director. "Small businesses are the backbone of business, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley. Forming a plan for regional small business development with flexibility to address area-specific needs is a primary objective."
UC Merced will oversee the SBDCs' provision of business counseling, training, financial planning, marketing, research and other services designed to improve the productivity, management and overall success of small businesses. Catering to regional issues, UC Merced also plans to work with the SBA and other community and business organizations to identify key regional growth industries and to expand small business development opportunities for women and minorities, with an emphasis on the Spanish-speaking and Southeast Asian populations.
The new SBDC lead center will be located with the UC Merced Division of Professional Studies in UC Merced's Fresno Center.