Lock Haven, Pa. The Pennsylvania House Commerce Committee brought the second of a series of public hearings on economic development to Lycoming College on March 11 in an effort to address the region’s unemployment rate, hovering at 9.7 percent. Lock Haven University is a member of the Pennsylvania State
System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the largest provider of higher education in
the commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 250 degree and certificate
programs in more than 120 areas of study. Nearly 405,000 system alumni live and
work in Pennsylvania.
“We need to make the type of investments that will spur economic development and create jobs in rural communities," said state Rep. Rick Mirabito (D-Lycoming), who co-hosted the hearing with state Rep. Peter J. Daley (D-Washington/Fayette), Committee Chairman.
Tim Keohane, director of the Lock Haven University Small Business Development Center (SBDC), noted that the region could do more to facilitate entrepreneurship and small business growth—proven many times over to drive job creation. The Lock Haven University SBDC is one of 18 centers in Pennsylvania that provides no-cost, confidential assistance to businesses in every industry and every stage of business. State funds to the SBDC program have been reduced by half since 2007.
“Over the past ten years, the Lock Haven SBDC has worked with 1,025 clients and provided them with more than 31,750 hours of consulting. These clients have reported creating or retaining 1,205 jobs, and entrepreneurs have reported starting 198 businesses and obtaining $57.5 million in financing,” Keohane testified. “Yet at the very moment when the SBDCs can have the greatest impact, our ability to respond is constrained.”
“To succeed in this economic landscape, companies need to be nimble; they need to think strategically, employ creativity, create and leverage knowledge and offer unique experiences. This is where the SBDC’s assistance can help,” he said.
Keohane noted that fostering local establishments not only assures revenues stay in Pennsylvania but creates jobs for Pennsylvanians. For instance, Dr. Jenifer DeWald leaned on the SBDC to open her own chiropractic office in 2001. She worked with the center to create a business plan and develop a loan package needed to begin operations. Over the years, she utilized a wide range of services, including assistance with human resources, accounting, evaluating cash flow and financial management.
She grew her practice’s annual revenue by 572% and by 2007, sought to expand. The SBDC helped DeWald transition the practice to a new 6,300 square foot facility and position for new employees, including other doctors, a full time certified massage therapist and administrative staff. DeWald now employs nine hardworking Pennsylvania residents.
“I am very grateful for all the assistance I have received from the SBDC, from starting my business, through the changes and growth that we have made,” DeWald said.
The Lock Haven University SBDC has recently focused on efforts to help small businesses capitalize on local opportunities with the Marcellus Shale gas fields. The center co-hosted the Central Susquehanna Gas and Oil Expo this fall in conjunction with the Independent Oil and Gas Associations, the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and the Penn State Cooperative Extension and recently offered a webinar series to help local businesses understand arising business opportunities.
Daley will bring subsequent hearings to other regions of the state in an effort to focus on the specific needs of each region. "Through these hearings we can begin to evaluate the sustainability of recovery and outline initiatives on how to create jobs of the future, jobs that pay well and jobs that can’t be outsourced," he said.
For a list of upcoming Commerce Committee hearings, visit www.pahouse.com/Daley.
Serving Clinton and Lycoming Counties, the Lock Haven University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was established in 1992. The center is part of a network of nationally-accredited Small Business Development Centers in Pennsylvania that provides in-depth consulting and education to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Funding support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the SBDC host institution enables consulting services to be provided at no charge to the client. For more information, visit www.lhup.edu/sbdc or call (570) 484-2589.