Big effort gives rebirth to business assistance org.

McKENZIE DELISLE/STAFF PHOTOClinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new home of the local Small Business Development Center. The center now operates from one of the college’s cottages and receives funding from SUNY Canton. The joint effort is known as the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center at Clinton Community College.

PLATTSBURGH — The local Small Business Development Center has risen from the ashes with the help of two colleges working together.

The center, once located on U.S. Oval, has moved to a Clinton Community College cottage at 100 Clinton Point Drive and will be funded by SUNY Canton.

SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran said small businesses are the heart of the American economy and, as such, the State University of New York is committed to Small Business Development Centers.

“Of course, they offer support to new businesses that are just starting out, but it’s also important to support existing businesses so that they can expand and so that they can transfer their knowledge to the next generation,” he said.

“The North Country is too small for people to do it alone. We all have to live together and that’s what this partnership is about — all of us working together.”

The local organization is now the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center at Clinton Community College.

‘DEVASTATING’

The North Country Small Business Development Center was hosted by SUNY Plattsburgh for 35 years; New York Small Business Development Center State Director Brian Goldstein said the campus-based regional center was the oldest in the state.

It helps local entrepreneurs launch small businesses in the area by offering counseling resources, business plans and market research at no direct cost to New York entrepreneurs and citizens.

In its 35 years of business, the center helped open 8,500 businesses, put $102 million into the local economy and create or save just under 3,200 jobs, Goldstein said in May.

But after a year of financial stress, SUNY Plattsburgh decided to pull the center’s funding effective this fall.

SUNY Plattsburgh Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs Ken Knelly had said the college’s annual contribution was just below $80,000, plus additional costs for the director’s benefits.

“When SUNY Plattsburgh originally decided to withdraw from the program, it was devastating to us — it was devastating to the whole community,” Goldstein said.

“It’s just a hot bed of activity in the North Country. This is one of the areas that needs it the most.”

FIRST OF ITS KIND

Funding for Small Business Development Centers is tri-fold, Assistant Director and Certified Business Adviser Angela Smith said.

“The federal government does one-third, the state does one-third and then the host institution (pays the rest),” she said.

Host campuses administer grants, fund the director’s salary and provide office space and other incidentals, she said.

SUNY Canton and Clinton Community College have divided the host responsibility somewhat between them.

“It’s really important to understand that in this scenario, SUNY Canton is our host institution, but Clinton Community is providing us the space,” Smith said.

“So the space is free of charge, but the phone, internet, etc. is paid for through SUNY Canton.”

Goldstein said the partnership between the two institutions is the first of its kind in New York.

“To see this collaboration between two campuses is — something,” he said, at a loss for words.

“We’ve had other schools manage centers at other locations but not come in as a champion when one left.”

BUBBLES OUT

Despite the center’s funding crisis, Smith said the Small Business Development Center had a record-breaking year.

“We served 366 clients, but we helped them invest almost $8 million in the region,” she said. “That was our best year ever — double what we normally do.”

The organization was also able to keep all its staff.

Square footage of the new space was not available, but Goldstein said there are the same number of offices.

“So the same level of service,” he said.

Goldstein thanked Clinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale and Szafran for their collaboration.

“I’ve met other presidents (of colleges around the country), and they’re not as forward thinking as them,” he said. “They work with more blinders on.

“These gentlemen, obviously, show that they care not just about education, but about their community.

“It bubbles out of them.”

Email McKenzie Delisle:

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle