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LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Bucknell Small Business Development Center marked 27 years of providing help to new businesses at its fourth annual Growing Small Businesses luncheon Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Federal and state legislators, regional business community representatives, and new small business owners, including two recent Bucknell graduates, spoke about the impact of small business on the economy and the role Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), like the one at Bucknell, have in helping new businesses get off the ground.
U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood congratulated the Bucknell SBDC on its 27th anniversary and said the support and services provided by SBDCs to small business owners help them to "overcome the obstacles to success. Overcoming obstacles is what it is all about."
He noted the important role that small business plays in the overall economy, saying that small businesses make up 97 percent of the total number of U.S. businesses.
"It creates 70 percent of all the new jobs and employs 50 percent of the people in the country," Sherwood said. "When you create 70 percent of the new jobs, that is what is so important in this country."
Sherwood said the U.S. and regional economies have suffered some recent dislocation and noted that worldwide economic competition is "brutal."
"There is no process today you can depend on for a long time. Everything goes global so immediately that you have to have new ideas and new processes all the time because the things we thought were protected a year or two ago are now worldwide commodities. We have to be very, very efficient," Sherwood said. "Small business is the most liable to be efficient because most good ideas are started by entrepreneurs, by people in small businesses who are very close to the production floor, very close to the process design."
He said a trademark of small business is in its ability to be "lean and flexible and very, very competitive."
Among the small business owners making presentations was Matt Roberts ’01, who started in 2004 a company called Keystone Pallet & Recycling in Milton, Pa., which recycles and reconditions wood pallets. He said the SBDC helped him to write a business plan, develop a logo and letterhead, and successfully complete a grant application from the Department of Environmental Protection. More info: http://keystonepallet.com.
Roberts said the process allows area companies to save money on disposal of unwanted pallets and on the purchase of new and stronger pallets at lower cost. All material is reused, he said. Smaller pieces of lumber that can’t be used in new pallet construction are used to build bluebird houses. Remaining material is ground up and sent to Viking Energy, where it will be burned to produce electricity.
Juliana Brafa ’05 and Todd Bieber are owners of Flexible Frame Production, a film production company based in Winfield, Pa. They showed a preview from their new film, a full-length feature starring Linda Blair, All Is Normal. More info: www.flexibleframe.com.
"Our business began as a hobby, and I don’t think it could have become a business and gotten this far if it weren’t for the SBDC," said Brafa. "They helped from us from the very beginning."
Among the help Flexible Frame got from the SBDC was technical advice related to forming a business partnership, writing business and marketing plans, and evaluating presentations for potential investors. "They celebrated with us when we achieved that goal," said Brafa. "They have always been extremely generous with their time and their advice."
Linda Sterling, executive director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, said Lewisburg is fortunate to have small business entrepreneurs like Brafa and Bieber working in the area. "When they get publicity for their movie and for attracting Linda Blair across the United States, the name Lewisburg gets into the news, too. We are finding that we are at wonderful time to be part of downtown development," she said.
Recent success in downtown development is related to the effort of SBDCs, she added. A big plus, she said, was that "Small Business Development Center-coached businesses are 30 percent more likely to succeed than non-coached businesses."
More information about the Bucknell SBDC is at http://www.bucknell.edu/SBDC/.
Left to right, Todd Beiber, U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood, and Juliana Brafa '05