Small Business:

Development Centers Meet Counseling Needs of Most Clients

RCED-90-38BR: Published: Nov 22, 1989. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program, focusing on: (1) client satisfaction with centers' and subcenters' assistance; (2) program funding sources; (3) program services; (4) client characteristics; (5) staff characteristics; and (6) effectiveness of on-site program reviews.

GAO found that: (1) over two-thirds of 997 clients responding to a questionnaire about SBDC assistance were satisfied with the counseling they received; (2) dissatisfied clients reported that they were not assisted quickly or that they did not receive useful assistance; (3) federal funding for SBDC increased from $360,000 for 9 centers in 1977 to $45 million for 53 centers in 1989, with 28 of those centers reaching their maximum federal funding limit; (4) SBA is investigating the feasibility of using a multiyear grant approval process to reduce centers' annual administrative burden associated with applying for funds; (5) centers and subcenters provided a variety of services to clients, typically emphasized counseling, and coordinated their activities with other organizations and programs; (6) clients receiving SBDC counseling were most frequently male, white, and 31 to 40 years old, had some college experience or a college degree, and were in or planned to be in retail or service sectors; (7) although few clients sought assistance in obtaining government contracts, minorities constituted one-third of clients receiving such assistance; (8) centers employed an average of 20 professional and support staff, while subcenters averaged 5; (9) directors were most often male, white, and 31 to 50 years old, and had a professional or graduate degree and several years of business experience; and (10) SBA and center directors reported that on-site reviews of centers provided SBA with program data not otherwise available and encouraged a forum for the exchange of ideas.

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