UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) received $325,000 in CARES Act funding from the United States Small Business Administration to launch a PASBDC Agriculture Center of Excellence with SBDC partners at Clarion University and University of Scranton. The center will help Pennsylvania agriculture businesses sustain operations and stabilize food supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PABSDC Ag Center of Excellence initiative will offer webinars and seminars on topics such as Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance, finance, planning and expansion, grants, federal and state financing programs, market research, social media, search engine optimization, managing cash flow, environmental assistance and cybersecurity. The center also will provide small agricultural businesses access to resources and information to help protect their workplaces, employees, and customers against potential health and safety threats, including COVID-19.
Center business development specialists will also work with producers and their supply chain partners to access and apply for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and all types of SBA, USDA and other commercial loan programs so small businesses can effectively access capital and promote sustainable agricultural operations, growth and future resiliency.
Tim Keohane, director of the Penn State SBDC, said that the new initiative will “allow us to leverage industry and local partnerships, including the expertise of Penn State Extension, to support the Pennsylvania agricultural industry statewide and assist the distribution and supply chain network from farm to table.”
Brent Hales, associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of Penn State Extension, said, “The headwinds facing the farm, food, agricultural and natural resource communities have likely never been stronger. The impacts of COVID-19 restrictions, supply chain disruption and low commodity processes are combining to seriously challenge the businesses who clothe, feed and shelter the world. Penn State Extension looks forward to working with the SBDCs to expand the availability of critical research-based information across the commonwealth.”
The PASBDC Ag Center of Excellence initiative is a cooperative effort between three SBDCs located in Northeast, Central and Western Pennsylvania to provide agricultural businesses educational and training seminars and webinars on relevant topics, consulting services, and support for the implementation of food safety protocols and for access to resources for capital.
“This collaboration enables the SBDC to respond to businesses more efficiently and provide convenient access to our program’s tools, resources, and expertise,” said Cindy Nellis, director of the Clarion SBDC.
“Support for this initiative recognizes the critical role production agriculture, agribusinesses, food processors and manufacturers, retailers and the entire distribution and support network from farm to table play in helping to assure a safe, reliable food supply,” said Lisa Hall Zielinski, director of the University of Scranton SBDC.
SBDCs are hosted by leading universities, colleges, state economic development agencies and private partners, and funded in part by the U.S. Congress through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Nearly 1,000 local centers are available to provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses. Part of the Penn State Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, the Penn State SBDC services Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, and Mifflin counties in Central Pennsylvania and was one of nine SBDCs to receive funding for the Agricultural Center of Excellence initiative.
About the Penn State SBDC
Funding support and resources are provided through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration; by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Department of Community & Economic Development; and in part through support from Penn State and with assistance from Lock Haven University. All services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. SBDC services are not available to individuals or entities that have been debarred or suspended by the federal government.