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LEWISBURG, Pa. β€” The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bucknell University was lauded at a luncheon marking 29 years of helping to establish and grow small businesses.

Small business owners, including Bucknell alum Bruce Platusich '72, the founder of Mill Race Consulting of Lewisburg, thanked the SBDC for being instrumental in helping to launch their businesses.

At one point, Platusich held up a drawing on a piece of paper to show the audience of more than 100 an idea he had for a fire sprinkler system valve and then the actual prototype that had been built by Bucknell's College of Engineering. The valve is now being licensed and about to be sold.

A big step
"The product has been well-received," he said. "And I have to think that was a result of doing business (with the SBDC). I don't think we could have gotten to the licensing stage. It would have been a major uphill battle having people take that (a paper design) and visualize that (the prototype). That's a big step for a lot of people."

Charles Pollock, vice president for external relations at Bucknell, said the SBDC is important to both the University and the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership and noted that for every dollar spent on center programs, $10.61 is generated in tax receipts. "That's a pretty good return on investment," said Pollock. Most important, "downtown businesses of all kinds have benefited from the very strong programming offered by the SBDC."

For Bucknell, Pollock said, the SBDC's work is at the center at The Plan for Bucknell. "It's part of Bucknell's fast expanding effort to support and increasingly to stimulate economic development here in Pennsylvania's heartland," he said.

SBDC success
Jim Orbison, dean of the College of Engineering, said he was pleased to be among those celebrating the success of the SBDC.

"This is an event that celebrates success β€” real success, earned success. It’s not hypothetical work. It's not academic work. It's real work and it's making a difference," said Orbison.

Orbison said the employees in the Bucknell SBDC are "making a difference in this area, are making a difference in the state, and that means they're making a difference in our society. And that difference is going to become increasingly important. We all know that we as a society in this country are facing challenges the likes of which we've never seen before."

Challenges facing country
He cited challenges ranging from outsourcing to fossil fuel utilization.

"In this country, new businesses, new technologies, new inventions stimulated and grew this country throughout the 19th and 20th centuries," said Orbison. "Those changes and stimuli are going to be essential to this country in the 21st century. It's outfits like the SBDC and Bucknell University (that are) making a difference and making the future better for all of us and this country."

Jon Vernam, director of the SBDC at Bucknell, noted that the Bucknell center is part of a statewide network of 18 university- and college-based centers preparing business owners to meet challenges in growing their businesses.

300 clients a year
"Our center typically serves more than 300 clients (a year) with one-on-one business consulting, educational seminars, and our newly named engineering development services where we bring the knowledge of our engineering scholars to our clients," said Vernam.

Several speakers noted that small businesses form the backbone of the economy in the United States. Indeed, more than 90 percent of Pennsylvania's businesses have fewer than 100 employees and more than 40,000 businesses in the state have fewer than 20 employees.

Dee Kaplan, deputy secretary for business assistance in the Department of Community and Economic Development, said that since 1990, SBDCs throughout the state have started more than 22,000 new businesses and created nearly 98,000 new jobs.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Aug. 7, 2007