The Connecticut Small Business Development Center, which is hosted at the UConn School of Business, will play a major role in a five-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to operate a national MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center.
The grant, which was announced at a press conference on Wednesday at the UConn Graduate Business Learning Center, will provide technical, business development, and manufacturing assistance to minority-owned businesses in order to help them expand their capacity to grow and operate efficiently. The state is receiving just one of four grants nationally to be awarded.
“This grant demonstrates the role UConn plays in Connecticut not only as a center of academic excellence, but also as a resource for economic development,” said UConn Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi. “There are many ways a public university can serve a state, and providing opportunities for dynamic new industry in Connecticut is an excellent example.
“This is especially true when it comes to providing resources for populations that have been historically under-represented in – or even excluded from – full participation in the opportunities of a dynamic economy.”
MBDA is the only federal agency dedicated solely to supporting minority businesses. The MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center will connect minority-owned manufacturers with experienced professionals to help them refine their business strategy and operations, assist with financial analysis, and connect them with Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers for deeper analysis of which advanced manufacturing services would be appropriate for that business.
“I want to thank everyone at the University of Connecticut for their involvement in this, because you are creating the workforce pipeline that is helping our manufacturing sector grow in areas like IT or engineering – all of those things that our manufacturers need in our state,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said at the news conference.
Manufacturers working with the center will have access to assets and resources which can help them cut costs, increase sales, and create and retain jobs. It will also address the unique challenges these business owners face and work to provide personalized assistance.
“I am confident this new grant will increase our efficiencies and looking forwards to working with the center at UConn,” said Gloria Kolb, the co-founder and CEO of Elidah, Inc., a medical equipment manufacturer in Monroe. “To stay competitive in this market, you need to bring costs down. This past year has been very challenging and ventured capital has just disappeared. We have to do things in a smart way and I am confident this new grant will increase our efficiencies.”
Kolb was one of several speakers at the news conference, which included policymakers and leaders at both the state and federal levels.
“Small business is the lifeblood and job creator of our economy,” said United States Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Small businesses, when they fail, kill dreams and lifetime investments. I’ve seen small business owners pour their lives and souls and families into business to keep them alive and keep the doors open. They are among the heroes in this pandemic recovery because their staying open is going to make possible our economic recovery.”
The MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center is supported by a number of key partners throughout the Northeast United States and Puerto Rico. These partners include CONNSTEP, PRIMEX, Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.
“Connecticut has a long history of excellence in manufacturing, including many outstanding minority manufacturers,” said UConn School of Business Dean John Elliot. “This grant will help us help other thriving minority entrepreneurs and innovators. We are proud to expand our support of Connecticut diverse communities. At the School of Business, we help create the workforce of tomorrow. Small, young companies need help and advice, but they often cannot afford the expense of a consultant that often serve this role. With this grant, we will be able to bring that eco system together that already work to support small businesses and thriving young companies and to do more of that, particularly with a focus on the minority community.”
Businesses interested in participating in this program can contact the Connecticut Small Business Development Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-723-2828.