SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa Junior College will no longer host the Santa Rosa Small Business Development Center, a federally administered small business advising program that has existed next to the campus for 20 years, according to the regional headquarters for centers in Northern California. The change will go into effect on Aug. 31.
The current home of the center, at 1808 Albany Drive in Santa Rosa, will close, according to the announcement. Business advisers at the location will continue to work with clients through a number of outreach centers in Sonoma and Marin counties, and management will occur through the lead SBDC center for Northern California, the NorCal SBDC in Arcata, Calif.
Lorraine DuVernay, director of the Santa Rosa SBDC for 11 years, will continue in her role until Aug. 31. Once the center establishes a new host, that host will select a director going forward, according to the NorCal SBDC.
The college chose to discontinue hosting the center due to continued cuts to the state budget for higher education, according to a release from Santa Rosa Junior College. As a host, the college was required to match $200,000 in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration annually, with a minimum of $100,000 in cash, according to Kristin Johnson, director of the Northern California SBDC region.
“Until recent budget problems, Santa Rosa has been able to provide most of that $100,000 through state funding,” she said.
In addition to funding, the college also provided the office for the center, which it owns along with a number of units along Elliott Avenue.
The Santa Rosa SBDC has provided 19,000 hours of free business consulting to over 3,000 businesses in Sonoma and Marin counties in the past five years alone. Work at the center lead to the creation of over 661 jobs and retention of 178 jobs slated for elimination in the two counties over the same period, according to the announcement.
“We are saddened to close this chapter of our SBDC history with Santa Rosa Junior College, but grateful to them for their years of service to our program and long-standing investment in support for small businesses in the community,” Ms. Johnson said.
It is not the first time that the Northern California SBDC has managed a center remotely, Ms. Johnson said. Both the Oakland and San Jose offices were managed remotely while looking for a new host during the past year.
Current clients of the Santa Rosa SBDC will continue to receive communication from their advisers, and current phone numbers will remain active until Aug. 1.
“There really will be little or no interruption in services,” said Ms. DuVernay.
Ms. DuVernay noted that the decision to break ties with the SBDC was not easy for the college, yet the reduction to discretionary funding made it necessary.
“This has nothing to do with the SBDC’s performance – it’s strictly a financial issue for the college,” she said.
Each of the 15 part-time advisers currently working in the Santa Rosa office will be given the option to continue as contractors for the SBDC, Ms. Johnson said. Other centers in the region typically employ those advisers as contractors, and that arrangement is expected to continue with the new host.
Ms. Johnson said that there has already been a significant amount of interest from prospective hosts. Potential hosts are required to be a nonprofit organization, and there will be formal request for proposals on approximately Aug. 1. An announcement of a new host is expected by late December.