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    SBDCs Create Center of Excellence for Agriculture

    The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center was awarded $80,000 in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration to launch the PASBDC Ag (agricultural) Center of Excellence initiative with SBDC partners at Clarion University and Pennsylvania State University. The initiative will help Pennsylvania agriculture businesses sustain operations and stabilize food supply chains in the wake of the pandemic.
    September 8, 2020

    The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) with SBDC partners at Clarion University and Pennsylvania State University received CARES Act funding from the United States Small Business Administration to launch the PASBDC Ag (agricultural) Center of Excellence initiative that will help Pennsylvania agriculture businesses sustain operations and stabilize food supply chains in the wake of the pandemic. The Scranton SBDC, housed in the University’s Kania School of Management, received $80,000 in support for this initiative. Only nine SBDCs in Pennsylvania received funds to support the creation of Center of Excellence initiatives.

    The PASCDC Ag Center of Excellence initiative will be a cooperative effort between the three SBDC centers, located in Northeast, Central and Western Pennsylvania, to provide agricultural businesses educational and training seminars and webinars on relevant topics; team consulting services; and support for the implantation of food safety protocols and for access to resources for capital. The initiative will leverage host institution resources and partnerships including the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State Extension, and the agricultural expertise and programming already developed by Scranton’s SBDC.

    “Support for this initiative recognizes the critical role production agriculture, agribusinesses, food processors and manufacturers, retailers and the entire distribution and support network from farm to table play in assuring a safe, reliable food supply,” said Lisa Hall Zielinski, director of The University of Scranton SBDC.

    The PASBDC Ag Center of Excellence initiative will offer webinars and seminars on topics such as FSMA compliance, finance, planning and expansion, grants and federal and state financing programs, market research, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), managing cash flow, environmental assistance and cybersecurity, among other topic related to health and safety issues concerning COVID-19. The initiative will provide team consulting outreach and services. It will also support ag business development specialists, who will assist small agricultural businesses with implementing protocols that can protect their workplaces, employees and customers against potential health and safety threats, including the prevention of the transmission of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

    PASCDC Ag Center of Excellence agriculture business development specialists will also work with producers and their supply chain partners to access and apply for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and all types of SBA, USDA and other commercial loan programs, so small businesses can effectively access capital and promote business sustainable agricultural operations, growth and future resiliency.

    Over the past 13 years, Scranton’s SBDC has developed programming and outreach specifically for businesses in the agriculture and food industry. Programming includes: ServSafe® Food Safety Certification; Building Your Food Business workshops; and FSMA Made Simple among other programs. Since January 2019, the SBDC has retained a business consultant with expertise in farm and food business, who has expanded the SBDC’s outreach to agricultural producers.

    Scranton’s SBDC was also among the 16 SBDC Centers in the Commonwealth recently awarded CARES Act funds by the Pennsylvania SBDC network to help mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small-businesses.

    SBDCs are hosted by leading universities, colleges, state economic development agencies and private partners, and funded in part by the United States Congress through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are nearly 1,000 local centers available to provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses. The University of Scranton SBDC serves eight counties in Northeastern and Northern Tier Pennsylvania.

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