The South Carolina Small Business Development Centers Celebrates 40 Years of Serving Small Businesses

State’s Principal Provider of Business Assistance Commemorates Four Decades of Helping Small Businesses Grow and Succeed

SC SBDC State Director Michele Abraham

COLUMBIA, SC – This year marks the South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SC SBDC) network’s 40th year of helping the state’s small businesses grow and succeed. As the premier statewide provider of entrepreneurial and business development services, the SC SBDC plays a vital role in South Carolina’s economic development by assisting entrepreneurs in every stage of the business life cycle.

Serving all of the state’s 46 counties, the SC SBDC has more than 50 consultants working in 21 area centers in communities across South Carolina, serving both urban and rural business needs. Through no-cost consulting, low-cost seminars and links to resources, the SC SBDC helps launch startups and enables existing businesses to thrive. SC SBDC consultants work with companies in all stages of development—from a person with an innovative product but no idea how to move forward to the owner of a company looking to capture new markets.

An Auspicious Beginning

In the mid-1970s the federal government recognized the importance of small business growth to the nation’s economy and the idea for SBDCs evolved. After the initial pilot program began, South Carolina was among the next 15 states to be selected for the national program in 1979. The national SBDC was modeled after the highly successful cooperative extension services of land grant institutions. In conjunction with respected business programs at major universities, the United States Congress created a business outreach initiative that focused on client education. SBDCs are now often linked to business incubators and such is the case with the Columbia Area SBDC located in the USofC Columbia Technology Incubator as well as others across the state.

Frank L. Roddey

During his tenure in the South Carolina senate, Senator Frank L. Roddey of Lancaster County collaborated with business school deans from Clemson, SC State, UofSC and Winthrop universities to form a Small Business Development Center in South Carolina. The early SBDC programs were such a success that Congress moved forward with establishing similar programs in states throughout the country. Because of Senator Roddey’s advocacy and tireless work to promote small business within South Carolina and his efforts to establish an SBDC network in the state, in 1980, the SBDC board of directors decided to name the network the Frank L. Roddey Small Business Development Centers. While the network was rebranded in 2012, Senator Roddey’s influence is still appreciated today by all involved with the SC SBDC.

Economic Impact

Small Business Development Centers play a crucial role in supporting the nation’s economy. According to the SBA, more than half of all private sector employees work for small businesses. In an economy struggling to produce jobs, many downsized workers have developed a high entrepreneurial spirit. Helping those who seek their fortune in the private enterprise system not only paves the way for their success, but often supports job growth.

Since its inception, the SC SBDC has assisted over 150,000 emerging and growing businesses. In 2018 alone, the SC SBDC assisted 5,009 businesses which accounted for 188 business starts, 996 jobs created/retained, $32.4 million in new sales, and $56 million in capital investments.

Organizational Structure

The SC SBDC is managed from the state director’s office located at the Moore School of Business at USofC. The state is broken into four regions, each region continues to be hosted by a major university – USofC, Clemson University, SC State, or Winthrop University. Recognizing the value an SBDC holds for an area, colleges in smaller communities often host a local SBDC, providing office space and basic business functions.

Like other SBDCs across the nation, South Carolina’s program is funded by Congress and administered by the SBA. This matching grant allows both financial and in-kind contributions from each program’s many partners including state and local governments, institutions of higher learning, private enterprise and local economic development organizations.

“Our forty-year story chronicles the commitment of our federal and state policymakers, college and university officials, private and public sector partners, dedicated SBDC personnel and our small business clients,” said SC SBDC State Director Michele Abraham. “Our celebration this year commemorates the small business owners and entrepreneurs we serve and our strategic, host and funding partners who make our work possible.”

A Network of Partners

To provide a range of well-rounded, complimentary services, the SC SBDC partners with other small business service organizations such as the SC Departments of Commerce and Transportation, Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), SC Launch, USDA, SCORE, Women’s Business Center and local Chambers of Commerce.

The SC SBDC is a member of the America’s SBDC network, which is a partnership that includes the U.S. Congress, SBA, the private sector, and the colleges, universities and state governments that host 62 SBDCs across the nation.

“Though we’ve grown and added many new services since our establishment, we’re still the same agency at heart: we’re big on small business,” said Abraham. “If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a small business looking to expand, call us today for a free consultation. Ask us, we can help.”

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