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Tennessee Small Business Development Center begins phase-out

Officials with the Austin Peay satellite office of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) are notifying their clients that the local center is phasing out services in preparation of ending operations in Clarksville Oct. 31.

According to Dr. Sherry Hoppe, APSU president, the closing is due to lack of long-term strategies for securing local matching funds. Local clients will be referred to an SBDC in Nashville when the center closes. The University of Memphis also has begun action to close its SBDC.
Officials with the Austin Peay satellite office of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) are notifying their clients that the local center is phasing out services in preparation of ending operations in Clarksville Oct. 31.

According to Dr. Sherry Hoppe, APSU president, the closing is due to lack of long-term strategies for securing local matching funds. Local clients will be referred to an SBDC in Nashville when the center closes. The University of Memphis also has begun action to close its SBDC.

The TSBDC, a statewide network of professional business consultants in 12 satellite centers, receives its primary funding through a federal grant from the Small Business Administration. The TSBDC lead center, housed at Middle Tennessee State University, contracts with TBR institutions to host satellite offices.

Although all local centers and satellite offices receive some SBA grant money, the federal agency requires a mandatory match by the local communities. In Clarksville, APSU has provided in-kind services, including accounting and information technology assistance to the local SBDC.

Through the years, officials with the local SBDC have secured matching funds from the city of Clarksville, Montgomery County, various banks and individuals and, most recently, the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce.

This local matching money has been added to funds provided by the state Department of Economic and Community Development. However, officials with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development have said that, as of January 2005, the department no longer will be able to offer financial assistance to the TSBDC network.

According to William S. Stuard, chair-elect of the Clarksville Area County Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber's partnership with APSU to fund the Tennessee Small Business Development Center has provided a variety of valuable services and assistance to start-up and growing businesses in the Clarksville area over the past three years.

“Limited funds from the state and other grant sources have made our ability to secure long-term funding increasingly difficult,” Stuard says. “The Chamber does aim to continue providing a basic level of small business assistance, such as seminars and referrals, through our Workforce Development Program.”

Hoppe says, “On behalf of Austin Peay, I want to commend our local business community for contributing matching funds for many years to ensure the operation of our Small Business Development Center. I also commend Carol Clark, Diane McDonald and others who have worked at the center over the past few years for their outstanding efforts to help small businesses in our community.

“We regret the closure of the Small Business Development Center, but it cannot remain open without money to operate it.”

Already local SBDC services are being offered at decreasing levels. For more information, telephone 551-4313, extension 259.
—Dennie Burke