Who would have thought that an idea in 1975 by William C. Flewellen, Jr., former Dean of the Univeristy of Georgia College of Business Administration, would flourish into a nationwide network of over 1,000 service centers. 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 what would become one of the most successful outreach/service programs not only in Georgia, but in the world. The philosophical partnership that flourished between Davidson and Flewellen reflected the successful partnership the SBDC came to represent. Davidson created an environment that encouraged and rewarded achievement, and he believed in Flewellen’s proposal that the university should be helping Georgia’s business people. 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 of Georgia. Want to learn more about our history? READ MORE
The University of Georgia College of Business Administration Dean, William C. Flewellen, Jr., begins promoting the idea of the SBDC through discussions with Dr. Reed Powell, Dean of California State Polytechnic University’s School of Business, while both members of National Advisory Board to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SBA names the University of Georgia as one of eight universities in the nation to pilot the SBDC program.
In the Georgia General Assembly, the SBDC found a champion in State Representative Lauren (“Bubba”) McDonald, a small businessman with a family hardware store in Commerce, GA. Working with fellow assemblymen, Hugh Logan and Bob Argo, in the House and Paul Broun in the Senate, McDonald guided legislation that directed the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia to establish the College of Business Administration at the University of Georgia as the coordinating agency for the Small Business Development Center. Enacted by the General Assembly in January 1077, the resolution also permitted the state to fund the SBDC directly. Four months later, on April 30, 1977, the UGA Small Business Development Center opened with a single office in Athens.
When the UGA SBDC opened its doors in 1977, the first client through the door was Augusta businessman, Abe J. Fogel.
In business since 1921, Fogel’s firm, U-Rent-It, had been renting furniture since the Depression in 1932, but had seen a decline in income in the 1970’s when Augusta experienced a shortage of apartment rents.
“I saw an ad in the Atlanta paper and came by Athens,” Fogel said. “The first person I talked to was Red Sanders.”
Sanders, then Associate Director of the Institute for Business, said Fogel’s furniture rental and sales business had been experiencing cash flow problems and Fogel sought advice on how to resolve them.
“The folks there helped me establish a book-keeping system and that helped me out a lot,” said Fogel.
Sanders, along with SBDC Director, Larry Bramblett, and counselors Larry White and Joe Rintz, visited Fogel at his store in early May 1977. Their basic strategy was to recommend a source of funds to service Fogel’s existing debt and offer a marketing plan to increase the sales and rentals.
The counselors presented Fogel with a six-point plan, as well as a referral for an SBA loan package. They also recommended changing the name of the firm to emphasize the primary business of furniture and suggested keeping the store open longer hours or more days.
Fogel was so pleased with that advice, following his SBDC consultation, he joined the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and, by Spring of 1978, had progressed from client to counselor at the SBDC.
“I felt I owed them something for their help,” he explained,” so I got involved and started doing some of the same work. I met some very fine people, and I really enjoyed working with it.”
At the age of 87, Fogel said he “really retired” in 1985 when he sold the furniture business. As if to underline the SBDC success, he noted that the business was “doing quite well” when he sold it.
“I sold it at a profit and did well all along after coming to the SBDC, so I guess they told me right.”
In July, 1978, the UGA SBDC in Albany officially opens at Albany Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Albany Junior College, Albany State College, and the University of Georgia (Jack Powell, director). The UGA SBDC in Statesboro (known today as the UGA SBDC at Georgia Southern University) also opened at Georgia Southern University in partnership with UGA.
In July, 1978, the UGA SBDC opens the Office of Minority Business Development (OMBD) with $80,000 from governor’s office and $80,000 in matching funds from SBA to ensure SBDC basic services of consulting, training, and research will be available to Georgia’s minority businesses.
In January, 1978, the UGA SBDC opens the International Trade Development Center (ITDC) to help identify and develop potential overseas markets for Georgia products.
Like SBA, Congress was quick to see the potential of a program that would help the nation’s huge small business constituency. But, congressional legislation moves slowly, and SBA Administrator, Mitchell Kobelinski, decided to implement the project without waiting for congressional funding. In 1976, the SBA allocated some of its own monies to fund pilot programs at eight universities.
In the meantime, the mills of Congress were beginning to grind. The SBA has been right to worry about the slow movement of congressional legislation — it was not until 1980 that the SBDC Act won congressional approval and was signed into law. On March 22, 1977, “The Small Business Development Center Act of 1977” was introduced by Senators Nelson, William Hathaway (Maine), and Sam Nunn (Georgia). Written by Nelson’s staff assistant, Allan Neece, the proposed act was very similar to the original concept authorized the SBA:
“To make grants to support the development and operation of small business development centers in order to provide small business with management development, technical information, product planning and development, and domestic and international market development, and for other purposes.”
After running into a few problems with attached bills (H.R. 11445), the Senate bill was reintroduced (S. 918) and passed in April 1979. In October, the House version (H.R. 90) was passed, and in July 1980, The Small Business Business Development Center Act was signed into law (P.L. 96-395) by President Jimmy Carter, establishing the SBDC as a national program.
Since then, the SBDC program has flourished, expanding from the eight pilot programs funded for seven states in 1977 to SBDC’s in forty-eight states as of 1989.
In October, 1980, the UGA SBDC opens the UGA SBDC in Macon at Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Georgia College, Macon Junior College, and UGA.
In November, 1980, the UGA SBDC opens the UGA SBDC in Augusta at Augusta College in partnership with UGA.
In January, 1981, the UGA SBDC opens the UGA SBDC in Columbus at Columbus College in partnership with UGA.
In July, 1981, the UGA SBDC opens the UGA SBDC in Rome at Floyd Junior College in partnership with UGA.
In February, 1982, the UGA SBDC open the UGA SBDC in Savannah at Savannah Chamber of Commerce in partnership with UGA.
In February, 1984, the UGA SBDC in Lawrenceville (known today as the UGA SBDC in Gwinnett) opens in Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with UGA.
In June, 1984, the University of Georgia begins extensive renovation on 125-year-old Chicopee Complex in Athens, which will become the permanent home for the UGA SBDC.
In August, 1984, the UGA SBDC in Gainesville opens at Gainesville Junior College in partnership with UGA.
In October, 1984, the UGA SBDC in Brunswick opens at Brunswick Junior College in partnership with UGA.
FUN FACTS ABOUT CHICOPEE COMPLEX: During the Civil War, British-born brothers Ferdinand and Francis Cook were assembling rifles in New Orleans until that city fell under control of Union soldiers. They opted to move their manufacturing facility to Athens and wound up in a grist mill on the banks of the Oconee River at what was known as Trail Creek.
The Cook & Brother Armory opened for business in Athens in 1862 and made as many as 600 rifles – mainly Enfields – per month until ceasing production two years later, in part because workers who had established their own Confederate regiment left town to do battle.
Through the post-Civil War years, the original building was owned and used by the textile stalwart Athens Manufacturing Co. Chicopee Mills, a division of Johnson & Johnson bought the building in 1947 and enlarged and altered the building significantly. UGA took over use of the building in the 1980s and renovated it to house the Small Business Development Center.
Under the terms of the 1991 USDA Rural Economic Development Grant, the UGA SBDC expanded its mission to include community economic development assistance and economic development research. In order to better communicate the organizational capabilities, the name Business Outreach Services was adopted to encompass these new services, as well as the traditional UGA SBDC services.
The core services of the UGA SBDC at the time were consulting, training and applied research, and have remained intact since the founding of the program. Interestingly, these services are reflective of the primary responsibilities of the University of Georgia: instruction, research, and technical assistance.
When Dr. William C. Flewellen, former Dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Business Administration, originated the concept of the Small Business Development Center, he probably didn’t envision that in 30 years time over 490,000 businesses are prospective entrepreneurs would be served through consulting and continuing education.
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. A history of the UGA business school, written by management professor Howard R. Smith, suggests that the focus of this early extension work was viewed more as local business people working with students to help students learn about business rather than students and faculty helping business people.
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. In the late 1940’s, the business school established an adult education program in an effort to reach more of Georgia’s nontraditional students. Extension work gained momentum in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when short courses were offered for many business interests, including small business. This momentum may have been encouraged by the creation of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) in 1952, which made the small business community worthy of attention – and dollars. In 1962, for instance, the University of Georgia was able to obtain some of those dollars for a study, sponsored by SBA and conducted by the UGA Bureau of Business Research, to determine the reasons for success and failure of small business in Georgia.
The 1960’s saw a surge in the university’s service program. The Institute of Community and Area Development (ICAD) was established in 1961 to expand UGA’s outreach to communities and cities throughout the state, and the business school’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research worked closely with ICAD, sharing some staffing positions and developing monthly programs for specific segments of business.
Thus, when 1968 brought a new university president and new business school dean to UGA, the groundwork had been laid for the small business extension service that would sweep the country for years to come.
Interest in helping small business intensified under the leadership of William Crawford Flewellen, Jr., who was appointed Dean of the College of Business Administration in 1968 and who would become known as “The Father of the SBDC Movement.” A Southerner by birth and education (except for a brief stay in New York to earn his Ph.D. from Columbia), 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:
With Flewellen in tune with Davidson’s vision of what the University of Georgia should and could be, the stage was set for what would become one of the most successful outreach/service programs not only in Georgia, but in the world. The philosophical partnership that flourished between Davidson and Flewellen reflected the successful partnership the SBDC came to represent. Davidson created an environment that encouraged and rewarded achievement, and he believed in Flewellen’s proposal that the university should be helping Georgia’s business people:
The actual concept of the SBDC, which was first called the University Business Development Center (UBDC), 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. He and Reed Powell, Advisory Board chairman, were among the few academicians on the Board. As Flewellen later recalled, “I was amazed at how little the SBA people and this group [of small business people] knew about collegiate business schools, and I was amazed at how little I knew about the SBA.” That discovery, emphasized by subsequent conversations with Powell, convinced the two men that every state and, in turn, the nation as a whole, would benefit from a small business program that offered the resources of higher education, small business, and government.
Thus, in 1975, Dr. William C. Flewellen, Jr., begins promoting the idea of the SBDC through discussions with Dr. Reed Powell while both members of National Advisory Board to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 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.