Who would have thought that an idea in 1975, promoted by William C. Flewellen, Jr., former Dean of the University of Georgia College of Business Administration, would flourish into a network of almost 1,000 service centers at colleges and universities across the country. With Flewellen’s vision and former UGA President Fred Davidson’s support of what the University of Georgia should and could be, the stage was set for a business extension program. Today, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center has assisted over 530,000 small business owners in Georgia and has greatly contributed to UGA’s economic impact on the state.
One of the oldest universities in the nation, the University of Georgia was chartered in 1785 and attained land-grant status in 1872. A School of Commerce was in place by 1912, two years before the Lever Act authorized extension teaching. But it was not until the mid-1920’s that extension classes in the field of business came under consideration at UGA.
The idea of the university extending its services to the business community finally was accepted at UGA, and in 1929 the Bureau of Business Research became one of the university’s first public service branches. Extension work gained momentum in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when short courses were offered for many business interests, including small business. In 1962, for instance, the University of Georgia was able to obtain federal dollars for a study, sponsored by The U.S. Small Business Administration and conducted by the UGA Bureau of Business Research, to determine the reasons for success and failure of small business in Georgia.
Interest in helping small businesses intensified under Dr. Flewellen, who was appointed Dean of the College of Business Administration in 1968. Flewellen brought to Georgia a reputation for tying the business community to the university. He had created successful service programs at Mississippi State University and The University of Southern Mississippi, was active in the national prestigious American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and served on a number of state and national business advisory boards.
For Dr. Fred Davidson, newly appointed president of the University of Georgia, Flewellen’s belief in service paralleled Davidson’s commitment to the land-grant philosophy of making a university’s resources available to its sponsoring society:
“The university is a 100 percent publicly held corporation with taxpayers as stockholders. We are the most important public asset they own. Learning is the only commodity we have. We create a climate for learning. Everything in the service program is a learning experience for the non-traditional student. It teaches a different audience, but it teaches.” – Fred Davidson
The actual concept of the SBDC came into focus in 1975, when Flewellen, as incoming president of the AACSB, was invited to serve on the National Advisory Board to the SBA, which later led to SBA naming the University of Georgia as one of eight universities in the nation to pilot the SBDC program in 1976. The UGA SBDC began operations in April of 1977. With a champion in the Georgia General Assembly in Representative Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, the SBDC grew in size and effectiveness and now is recognized as one of the most effective business assistance programs of its type in the country.
Want to learn more about the history of the UGA SBDC? Go here: https://www.georgiasbdc.org/anniversary/