Penn State SBDC marks 15 years of helping central Pa. businesses

October 10, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is celebrating 15 years of helping the central Pennsylvania economy grow.

The Penn State SBDC was founded in 1997 to serve Centre and Mifflin counties. It has helped start 297 businesses and assisted in the purchase of another 57, said director Heather Fennessey. The center has helped create 1,593 jobs and save 474 more. Clients credit the SBDC with helping them increase sales by $74.6 million.

The center has grown from a one-person satellite location of the Bucknell University SBDC to an independent office with six full-time employees and four graduate assistants. It helped 699 clients last year, compared to 44 in its first year.

While the center’s core mission remains economic development, it has expanded to include a greater focus on commercializing Penn State research and working with student entrepreneurs, said Fennessey. “We try to leverage the assets of the university,” she said. “That’s really what distinguishes us.”

The number of calls to the center has continued to rise even during the recession, senior business consultant Linda Feltman said. Clients include everyone from young entrepreneurs to baby boomers starting second careers to business owners who want to improve their bottom line. “We don’t only work with startups – we work with everybody across the board,” she said.

Jonathan Bush has consulted with the Penn State SBDC for years about the landscaping service he and his son run out of Burnham, Pa., and recently got help opening a retail store.

“That’s the best thing about it – when you get stuck on something, having someone to call,” Bush said. “If they don’t know the answer, they’ll find out.”

The Penn State SBDC is one of 18 centers across Pennsylvania and part of a nationwide network of more than 1,000 centers. The Penn State SBDC provides free, confidential business assistance and low-cost training to small firms and business startups. It is part of Penn State Outreach, which serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 115 countries worldwide.

To learn more about Penn State SBDC, visit


  • Three more sessions of 'The First Step of Starting a Business' will be offered in 2012.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated October 31, 2012