Ohio SBDC Honored for ‘Excellence and Innovation’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For the first time in the history of the U.S. Small Business Administration Cleveland District, one of its agencies received national accolades for excellence and innovation: the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Youngstown State University.

During the Youngstown SBA Emerging Leaders Alumni Celebration Thursday, Gilbert Goldberg, director of the SBA Cleveland District, praised the work of the Ohio SBDC, which received the 2019 National Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award.

“We cover more than 28 counties of Ohio from the Pennsylvania line to the Indiana line,” Goldberg told those gathered. “We’re here today to honor the SBDC and the good work done over the years. This is the first time in the history of the district that we have a national, innovation SBDC winner here.”

On May 5, Patricia Veisz, director of the Ohio SBDC, accepted the award in Washington, D.C. With some 1,000 offices in 68 districts nationally, Veisz said she and her staff were “quite surprised” to receive the award.

“There’s almost a thousand SBDCs in the country and for us to be singled out was an amazing honor for us,” Veisz said. “To be recognized for what we do, it’s our commitment and it’s our dedication to economic development in the area, but we can’t do this by ourselves. It takes a lot of people.”

Veisz with Ohio SBDC staff members Derek Gomez, Joseph Scott, Levi Smith, Ellen Chittester and Mousa Kassis.

The Excellence and Innovation Award honors SBDC offices for excellence in providing value to small businesses and advancing program delivery and management through innovation.

Established 32 years ago, the Ohio SBDC at YSU serves about 300 clients annually, providing counseling and assistance to those who are interested in starting their own businesses or expanding existing companies. In 2018, the SBDC office provided 7,035 hours of counseling to 279 clients, helping area businesses generate some $96.87 million in new sales while creating 491 jobs and retaining 1,496, Veisz said.

In addition, the SBDC assisted businesses with obtaining $17.51 million in capital through investments and loans, and assisted 30 business startups.

The SBDC also helps through its programming. Of the 24 SBDCs in Ohio, the office at YSU is one of seven in the state to offer export assistance services. Companies that are new to exporting or want to expand their export businesses can take advantage of these services, which is a growing area for the office, Veisz said.

Other programs include the Emerging Leaders training program, which the Ohio SBDC offers through a partnership with the SBA, the city of Youngstown and YSU to assist existing business owners.

Business owners such as Laura Wiencek, owner of Win-Seek Performance Horses, Cortland, who enrolled in the the Emerging Leaders program to learn more about financials. While understanding the horses and the mountain trail part of her business is not a challenge, understanding the paperwork involved is something Wiencek said she wants to pursue.

“Emerging Leaders and the course we’re taking is great because it not only gets us to learn about our business, what’s going on with our business, it puts us in touch with businesses,” Wiencek said. “I’m learning from different businesses and different things they’ve either found works for them or doesn’t and sometimes we can incorporate that into what we’re doing in our business.”

When the program started nine years ago, it was offered in 25 cities throughout the country. The SBA’s Goldberg believed Youngstown would be a good fit for the program, Veisz said.

The program includes 40 hours of in-class training, seven meetings with CEO mentors, course work and networking opportunities. Applicants must have been in business for at least three years, have at least one employee aside from the owner and have gross annual sales of at least $250,000.

“They work in groups and put a hundred hours of work in the classroom and out working on a strategic growth action plan for their business,” she said. “There’s no cost to the student. It’s their time committed to it. It’s an $8,000 to $10,000 program and they don’t have to pay anything.”

Through the years, support for the Ohio SBDC at YSU has been undying, Veisz said, particularly from Betty Jo Licata, dean of the Williamson College of Business Administration and YSU President Jim Tressel. They see the bigger picture of the services within the university helping to expand the area’s economy, she says.

“Our SBDC exemplifies our commitment to impact, engagement and innovation,” Licata said in a statement. “Their programs and services support the economic growth of businesses in our region and create unique educational experiences for our students.”

“It’s easy to celebrate great work,” Licata added. “This award not only recognizes the work of the SBDC but it also recognizes the way the SBDC helps build the college and the university to advance our mission.”

Pictured above: Gilbert Goldberg, director of the SBA Cleveland District (left) with YSU Provost Brian Smith and Patricia Veisz, director of the Ohio SBDC at YSU.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.