Small-business centers help a diverse clientele find solutions to their operating dilemmas. Following are a number of new or innovative programs around the nation:
- At the University of Massachusetts, Boston, the Minority Business Assistance Center offers programs ranging from free one-on-one counseling sessions to an intensive 20-week entrepreneurial training course. Graduates of the course, which is sponsored by the Bank of Boston and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, will have a completed business plan and the know-how to approach a bank for a loan. In addition, the center participates in the SBA's Minority Pre-Qualification Pilot Loan Program. Call (617) 287-7750 for more information.
- A partnership of the SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency, NationsBank, Bell South and the Georgia Institute of Technology has resulted in the Atlanta Small Business Resource Center (SBRC). Entrepreneurs can take advantage of free counseling and low-cost seminars and workshops; they can also utilize the center's resource library and computers for Internet access or to write business plans and create brochures.
In addition to technical assistance, the SBRC provides information about SBA loan programs and expects to soon offer the Minority Pre-Qualification Pilot Loan Program. Call (404) 529-9808 for information.
- Wilmington, Delaware's Small Business Resource and Information Center features a computer lab, an industry database for market research, census and Dun & Bradstreet data, and manufacturing directories for the state and region. The center offers low-cost seminars, counseling, loan program referrals and information on securing business licenses or incorporating. For more information, call (302) 571-1555.
- Smithfield, Rhode Island-based Bryant College and its strategic partners have created a network of centers to help small businesses from start-up to succession planning. The following programs operate under the auspices of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Enterprise:
--The Rhode Island Small Business Development Center provides free and low-cost help through seminars, workshops and individualized counseling. For information, call (401) 232-6111.
--The Bell Atlantic-Bryant College Telecommunications Center provides free seminars and workshops taught by Bryant students on how to use technology to improve your business. Entrepreneurs can learn to use an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and conduct market research and marketing on the Internet. There are also courses on introductory Internet education and Web site design. For in-depth assistance, you can request one-on-one counseling. Call (401) 232-0220 for information.
--The Center for Business and Design offers low-cost seminars and workshops to help New England-area artists and designers learn how to successfully operate a business. The center also works with other small businesses on new-product design and development, as well as to help them understand how design can be used to enhance competitiveness. In March, the center is hosting a conference on the same topic. Those interested in attending should call (401) 454-6558.
--The Center for International Business helps companies compete in the global arena by offering trade leads and international networking contacts. Contact the center at (401) 232-6407.
--The Center for Management Development provides courses, certificate programs and customized training through Bryant College's graduate school that include human resources and supervisory training, and computer certification. Call (401) 232-6200 for more information.