The Small Business Development Center at Santa Rosa Junior College, which has provided mentoring and training to thousands of businesses in Sonoma and Marin counties over the last two decades, is looking for a new home.
After several years of budget cuts, SRJC no longer has the funds to continue operating the center and will sever ties with the program on Aug. 1, said Lorraine DuVernay, director for the Santa Rosa SBDC.
Humboldt State University, which serves as the lead agency for SBDC services in Northern California, will temporarily take over the Santa Rosa program while it looks for a new agency to provide the free consulting services to businesses in the North Bay.
"Hopefully the transition will be seamless," DuVernay said.
Existing SBDC offices located in Petaluma, Sonoma, Novato, San Rafael and Marin City will remain open. The Santa Rosa office will close, but a new location in the city is being sought, said Ann Johnson-Stromberg, spokeswoman for the NorCal Small Business Development Center Network in Arcata.
The Arcata agency will issue a request for proposals to host the program and will accept applications in the fall.
"We'll continue to manage it until we find one," Johnson-Stromberg said. "We've already had some interest from local organizations in the area."
Clients will likely continue to meet with the same consultants, and there shouldn't be any interruptions or gaps, DuVernay said.
SRJC has hosted the center for 20 years. In just the last five years, the center provided more than 19,000 hours of free business consulting, including training, workshops and seminars. As a result, 661 jobs were created and 178 jobs that were slated for elimination were retained, the center said. It also helped small business clients secure nearly $48 million in loans and equity capital.
As the program's host, SRJC was required to match more than $200,000 in annual funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The college, which met its obligations by providing both office space and more than $100,000 in cash annually to the program, can no longer afford to fund the services, DuVernay said.
"The college has been terribly impacted by the state budget reductions to the entire higher education system," DuVernay said. "All of the college resources have to be focused on its primary mission, which is education."
For more information, businesses working with the SBDC should call (707) 595-0060 or visit www.santarosasbdc.org. Those interested in applying to host should call the NorCal SBDC Lead Center at (707) 826-3919.