The New Hampshire Small Business Development Center (NHSBDC) has been helping small businesses in the state flourish for the last 36 years. In his initial budget, Gov. Chris Sununu proposed a 100% cut to the agency’s budgets. Since then, he has reversed his course dramatically and reinstated most of their funding.
Housed in the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, the NHSBDC has given as many as 7,000 businesses direct help, with a focus on education and advisership, all for free. In 2020, they helped small businesses create and save 1,300 jobs, increase sales by $9.5 million, and raise $45.1 million in new capital. In spite of the pandemic creating numerous pitfalls and unforeseen trials, they helped 7,178 small businesses keep their doors open.
“We think that we’re a smart investment,” director Liz Gray said humbly in an interview with The New Hampshire of the NHSBDC’s work.
The NHSBDC is reliant on state and federal funding to do its work, as well as generous benefits awarded by UNH. In his initial budget for the state, Gov. Sununu proposed cutting funding for the NHSBDC from $880,000 over the last two years to only $50,000 over the next. Of the possibility of weathering the massive cuts, “we could not survive,” Gray said. The funding that the state provides is matched federally. If these cuts went through, they would effectively lose double whatever the state cuts consisted of.
In a statement, Sununu explained his budget, saying “the state is going to redirect its resources to focus on job-cutting tax cuts for small businesses and increased investment in workplace development efforts.” He added that UNH could continue to provide funding, only that the state itself would not.
As to why the budget of such an impactful agency was proposed to be cut, State Sen. David Watters could express only confusion, in a Foster’s Daily Democrat article. “It’s awfully hard to take advantage of tax cuts if you’re out of business,” he said.
After a pandemic year that has given small business owners an exceptionally rough go, public outcry over this decision was resounding and firm. The many businesses helped to survive both the pandemic and the regular pitfalls of the market were more than willing to pledge their support, calling the agency “invaluable,” among other things.
The governor responded to their requests for a revised budget by calling for a re-examined budget himself. While the details have yet to be hammered out, the future of the NHSBDC is on far stronger ground than it was only last week.
Small business owners are “cautiously optimistic” about the future, according to a press release in regard to a survey taken in February. Still, they are far from pre pandemic safety, and need more assistance. NHSBDC will be hosting a virtual small business and community resiliency Academy from April 7- June 2, to that end.
“We were so pleased to see Governor Sununu’s statement on revenues and his recommendation to the House and Senate Finance committees,” Gray’s statement on their website says. “Our Team would like to thank all the clients, partners, and friends that have reached out to lend their support to SBDC relative to the proposed state budget reductions.”
Photo courtesy of UNH Today.