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Is New Jersey On The Right Track? It Depends On How State Government Implements Policies That Are Small Business Friendly Says NJSBDC Network Executives

admin | February 20, 2014


Jody Calendar

973 353-1927 or 732 245-9181


February 20, 2014 (Newark, NJ) – There is strong support for small businesses and entrepreneurs, according to the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) economic impact data for 2013.

“It’s our report card,” says Brenda Hopper, chief executive officer and state director of the network which has been assisting small businesses for 35 years. “Our numbers show strong support for small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

The business experts at the NJSBDC network which consists of 12 centers statewide provided customized, personalized counseling for 5,351 small businesses and entrepreneurs totaling 22,699 counseling hours in 2013 alone. “That’s a lot of counseling for a small non-profit network like ours,” Deborah Smarth, chief operating officer and associate state director commented. “And, that was during a year when our core SBA funding grant had been reduced due to automatic congressional sequestered cuts in funding for the national SBDC program.”

More than 54 percent of the client portfolio is established businesses. These businesses are at different stages of growth and on average have between one to five employees although the network does have many clients who employ up to 100 or more employees. Their revenue ranges span from typical start-up to several million dollars in sales. Despite the slow recovery and a slow appetite for business expansion and financing, the network helped facilitate $74.9 million dollars in loans, equity and procurement contracts. The network had 644 clients who started a new business in 2013.

The comprehensive technical assistance had a broad range including business planning, strategic planning, E-Business presence, exporting, technology commercialization, marketing strategies, accounting and financial analysis and more. The NJSBDC network helped its clients create and save 16,479 jobs with 2,191 created jobs and 14,288 saved jobs.  The regional center directors who run the centers statewide stress that they ensure that when business clients face uphill problems, SBDC experts help clients find viable solutions – preventing layoffs and eventually creating more jobs.

Smarth made the point that New Jersey invests far less than other states do in their SBDCs across the nation.  In mid-December 2013, the non-partisan Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC) study, ranked New Jersey 49th of 50 states in terms of policy friendliness towards small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“A recent national association survey showed that NJSBDC is way below the national average of state funding at $1.1 million in state SBDC networks. Yet, this network is the boots on the ground for thousands of businesses which tap its services annually, including Sandy-hurt businesses.” In addition to one on-one-counseling, the network sponsored 666 training seminars at which 9,830 small business owners and individuals attended, Smarth stressed.

Historically, the NJSBDC network has been the go-to entity for small businesses across the state due to its wide infrastructure and offices affiliated and hosted at various higher education institutions which leverages faculty and student teams when appropriate.

“In the past, the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education advocated for a greater partnership between business and higher education institutions. This network is a perfect example of giving the business footprint for academic institutions’ partnerships,” said Smarth.

Hopper added, “Because NJSBDC is part of a national network of SBDCs across the country, it also has access to many national resources that are superbly utilized for the benefit of its clients, like a national clearinghouse which further assists SBDC business consultants and counselors to perfect details and research specifically geared to each client’s needs.”

“We’re grateful that our state funding has remained stable over the past 4 years,” Hopper continued. “But, it’s apparent that the ROI we give the state’s Treasury through small business clients’ development and growth far exceeds the level of investment made. It doesn’t have to be like that because the Legislature had funded the program at a million dollars several years ago.” About two decades ago NJSBDC received a state allocation of $500,000 prior to its increase to $1 million, but, is now at $250,000 despite the extra pressures of dealing with the influx of small businesses which had property damage and other economic losses due to the business shutdown as a result of Super Storm Sandy.

There’s no doubt that restored SBDC funding to its past levels would reap economic development benefits for the state.

“Our true hope for the small businesses in the state and those individuals who haven’t been able to find decent paying jobs and who are considering starting a business, is that the state Legislature and Governor and his Team restore funding for the mission of the NJSBDC program,” said Smarth.

Hopper said considering restored funding for the NJSBDC program in this upcoming state budget would be a good symbol and message to the small businesses of the state that they do matter.

“Small businesses need to know they are supported.” Smarth noted that hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to mid and large size companies through business incentive grants over the past few years and that compared to the cost per creating and saving a job through the SBDC program, the cost of incentive grants is much higher.

Hopper said she hopes that in this upcoming budget cycle, the Legislature will work with the Governor’s Office in making a greater investment in this jobs producing program.  Smarth noted that federal monies under the past federal jobs stimulus act expired and special, one-time Sandy assistance funding will end in 2015, which means that resources to serve small businesses in New Jersey will be reduced further.


This non-profit network is a federal-state-educational partnership. Its expert staff and business practitioners help small business owners and entrepreneurs with every stage of business development and growth. The network headquarters is located at the Rutgers Business School in Newark. Its major funding partner is the U.S. Small Business Administration. The New Jersey Business Action Center is an additional funding partner of the NJSBDC program as well as other public and private grants/sponsorships. The NJSBDC network is an accredited member of the national association of SBDCs, with more than 1,100 centers and satellite offices throughout the country serving and assisting small businesses and saving and creating jobs across the nation. For more information, visit


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