Housed at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities SBDC has been helping businesses for 30 years, providing free guidance in planning and marketing as well as help in securing financing. The centers are partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
One of nine SBDCs in the state, the Twin Cities office caters to established businesses because of the plethora of local organizations that help startups, Ryan said. The center subcontracts with the Metropolitan Economic Development Association and with satellite centers at Anoka Technical College and Dakota County Technical College.
“Our goal — and the way we’re measured by the SBA — is economic impact,” Ryan said. That includes third-party surveys of each client to determine economic growth, employment and taxes paid.
“The place where we can make the best hit, the best return for our hours, is with businesses that are already established,” Ryan said. “They’ve demonstrated that there is a business model there. They have revenue.”
About two-thirds of clients want help with marketing, and the rest need financial analysis and cash infusions. The local credit market can be tough, according to Ryan, but the center is helping clients negotiate for $2 million to $3 million in loans at any given time.
This fall, clients will be able to benefit from a new service. Second-year Master of Business Administration students from St. Thomas will be available to help, according to Chris Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business.
“They provide an extraordinarily neat opportunity for the clients of the SBDC to provide a perspective that they otherwise couldn’t get and certainly could afford,” Puto said.
St. Thomas also doesn’t require its SBDC to raise funds to stay in business, unlike other SBDCs. For Puto, housing the SBDC is worth it.
“There are costs involved, but we think that the benefit in terms of connecting the college with the business practitioner community is huge,” he said. “This is part of our mission.”
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