Two people speak next to each other at a table
Features & Articles

Pitt ranked No. 1 for small business support

  • Community Impact
  • Innovation and Research
  • Small Business Development Center

The University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center has been chosen by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the national SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award winner of 2020. The center, part of Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), was named No. 1 from more than 1,000 small business development centers across the nation.

SBA Western Pennsylvania District Director Kelly Hunt said Pitt’s programming helped set it apart. “Pitt’s small business contracting endeavors have been either emulated by other institutions or used throughout the commonwealth’s 16 SBDC network, with Pitt serving as the Center of Excellence,” she said. “We’re not only proud they’re being recognized for their service, but also pleased they are an award-winning resource partner.”

Established in 1979, The mission of Pitt’s SBDC is to grow the economy of Western Pennsylvania by providing entrepreneurs with the education, information and tools necessary to build successful businesses. During the 2019 calendar year, the center served approximately 700 small businesses across six counties in the region, completed more than 7,500 hours of one-on-one business consulting, recorded more than $16 million in business capital formation for clients and created or supported nearly 3,500 regional jobs.

“The University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center has one aim: To help local businesses — and dreams — thrive,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “In realizing this aim, our team has opened countless windows of opportunity for entrepreneurs across the region and fueled economic growth throughout the commonwealth. I am incredibly proud of its success and already looking forward to what it will accomplish — and help Pennsylvanians accomplish — next.”

The announcement comes as part of the National Small Business Week, an annual recognition for outstanding small business owners, entrepreneurs and organizations spanning various categories.

“This award is a great recognition of the efforts of our SBDC and IEE teams and an affirmation of our missions. The small business community is vital to our region, and I am pleased that this honor might highlight the support and impact we provide to entrepreneurs and the regional economy,” said Ray Vargo, director of Pitt’s SBDC.

Timely support, resources and guidance

The center has developed an impressive record of service to small business owners across Allegheny, Greene and Washington counties. In 2020, the Pennsylvania SBDC lead office asked Pitt SBDC to expand its services to include Beaver, Butler and Lawrence Counties (shared with Duquesne University’s SBDC).

“The Pitt SBDC has been phenomenal. They have been a regular source of quality, timely, helpful information, resources and guidance. Without the support they have provided, I do not think I would have had what I needed,” said Richard W. Taylor, CEO of ImbuTec, a certified minority-owned construction management company based in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Taylor is also graduate of the Pitt SBDC’s UPMC Essentials for Success diverse supplier program. “They took time to consult with me individually. I’m sure they have a million other companies to support, but I appreciated taking that time in the midst of all the insanity to focus on my situation.”

Jason Capps, owner of Canonsburg’s Bella Sera restaurant, has used Pitt’s SBDC, part of the University’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), for decades. “Ray Vargo has helped me every step of the way with business plans, profit and loss statements and obtaining financing for my restaurant,” he said. “We’re in our 15th year and I still bounce ideas off Ray.”

The center has also been a support line for small businesses most affected by the COVID-19 closures.

In addition to helping small businesses apply for loans and grants, including the Paycheck Protection Program as part of the federal CARES Act and the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program administered by Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, the center responded within days of the shutdown with a “COVID-19 Resources and Relief for Small Businesses” webinar attended by more than 800 small business owners and organizations.

Additionally, in a collaboration across various Pitt departments, the IEE and SBDC were able to coordinate a donation of all-in-one printer/scanner devices to more than 160 small businesses to help ease the burden of many businesses’ new work from home operations.

“As a partner of the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Center, Huntington sees firsthand how they are helping small businesses to thrive. Since 1979, the SBDC has built an impressive record of service that has not only helped our local businesses, they have helped our local economy to flourish,” said Susie Shipley, Huntington’s Western Pennsylvania & Ohio Valley Region President.