The Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network nears half a century of service helping small businesses grow and succeed as it celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.
In 1976, the Florida SBDC Network was funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as one of eight SBDC pilot programs in the country. Originating with one man at the University of West Florida overseeing two centers in Northwest Florida and serving a handful of clients, the Florida SBDC Network is now one of the largest SBDC networks in the country. The network has more than 40 centers and 300 employees and provides tools, training and expertise to thousands of Florida’s entrepreneurs annually.
10 Years (1976-1985):
- Founded by SBA as 1 of 8 original pilot SBDC programs
- Began with one man and two centers at UWF
- National legislation authorizes SBDCs
- Network expands to include USF, FSU, FAMU, UCF, UNF, FAU, FIU, UM
- Government contracting becomes statewide priority
- Greg Higgins becomes State Director
- Serves nearly 150,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners
- Allan Cowart, a professor of management at the University of West Florida (UWF), creates UWF’s Resource Center for Small Business Services
Since its inception, the Florida SBDC Network has assisted over 1.4 million emerging and growing businesses through consulting, training, and information. In addition to the Florida SBDC’s core offerings, the network also provides specialized services for businesses, including capital access, strategic planning and market research, international trade, government contracting, disaster preparedness and recovery, and more. As the only statewide provider of entrepreneurial and business development services, the Florida SBDC Network plays a vital role in Florida’s economic development by assisting entrepreneurs in every stage of the business life cycle.
In 2019, Florida SBDCs provided 114,064 hours of professional business consulting to 12,535 client businesses, resulting in 37,966 jobs impacted; $4.4 billion in sales generated; $496.5 million in government contracts acquired; and $255.3 million in capital accessed; and 453 new businesses started.
Since March of 2020, the Florida SBDC Network has helped thousands of small business owners throughout the state obtain more than $219 million in federal and state disaster assistance, including the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Consultants provide step-by-step support through the entire application process, explaining eligibility requirements and offering guidance on completing and submitting all necessary forms. Consultants also continued to help business owners navigate long-term challenges from COVID, including discussing issues such as pivoting to adjust to the new normal, revamping marketing plans to garner additional clients, and adjusting business processes for maximum efficiency, resiliency and longevity.
Network of Partnerships
State designated as “Florida’s Principal Provider of Business Assistance” [§ 288.001, Fla. Stat.], the Florida SBDC Network serves all 67 Florida counties – from Pensacola to Key West. Headquartered at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, the Florida SBDC Network partners with Florida’s state universities, colleges, and other economic development organizations to assist small and medium-sized business, regardless of industry.