LEWISTOWN - Like many state-funded organizations and agencies facing potential budget cuts under the proposed state budget, the Penn State Small Business Development Center is concerned how possible reductions would affect the local community. The center, which has offices in Mifflin and Centre Counties, is facing a $4.6 million cut under the Senate-approved state budget, and this has some of its members anxious.
Michael Ryan, business analyst for the Penn State Small Business Development Center in Lewistown, said two of the 14 businesses that opened with the SBDC during the first sixth months of the year are in Mifflin County.
"One of the clients had been laid off from their full time job, which became the catalyst that they needed to start their own firm," Ryan said. "It is a one-person operation right now, but the owner hopes to add at least one part-time position within a year."
The statewide network of 18 SBDCs was funded at $7.35 million last year, Ryan explained. Gov. Edward G. Rendell first proposed $5.75 million to the center and then cut another 10 percent from appropriations. The budget initially approved by the state Senate cut appropriations to $2.75 million, he said.
"The SBDCs are labor intensive, so a cut in funding means fewer consultants available, and less hours to work with emerging or struggling businesses," Ryan said. "Plus, every dollar in state appropriations that we receive must be matched by other funds. So every $1 million cut in appropriations could lead to $2 million in total budget cuts."
Jim Tunall, president and executive director of the Juniata Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau, said funding cuts to the SBDC would have a "horrible" impact on the local community in the long run.
Many local residents looking for advice end up at the chamber, Tunall said, "(and) immediately I give them Mike Ryan's phone number."
Tunall said the center helps aspiring business owners with the process of deciding if they are able to open a business. The center also helps clients write professional business plans, helps them decide when to expand and councels them, Tunall said.
"He (Ryan) gets them through the hoops," he said. "It's an invaluable free service for the business community."
Tunall said another reason the SBDC is beneficial to the local community is because of the programs and seminars it hosts, such as its sessions on how to start small businesses and introduction to computers.
"These people (at the center) create careers and jobs," he said.
Tunall added that the center not only helps people start their businesses, it encourages people to go into business and shows them how to explore possibilities, he said.
According to a press release from the Penn State Outreach Magazine, the SBDC consulted with 479 clients in the first half of 2009.
"With SBDC assistance, at least 44 new jobs were created, and clients reported more than $1.9 million in increased sales," the release states.
Also in the release, Heather Fennessey, SBDC director, said, "We help small businesses to start, grow, and prosper, which creates increased tax revenues back to the state and federal governments."
The SBDC was founded in 1997 and is one of 18 Small Business Development Centers in Pennsylvania. It is an accredited affiliate of the national network of Small Business Development Centers, according to the SBDC's Web site. For more information visit www.sbdc.psu.edu/index.htm.
Last checks sent out to state workers
HARRISBURG (AP) - The Pennsylvania state Treasury on Friday issued what could be the last paycheck for awhile for thousands of state employees as the federal government began investigating whether the budgetless state is violating labor law.
Friday's checks only paid for days worked before July 1, the beginning of a budget impasse that stripped state government of the ability to pay bills and meet payroll.
A state Treasury spokeswoman said the checks paid about 20 percent of the regular amount, although some employees may have received nothing at all, depending on the size of their benefits deduction.
Informal talks among Gov. Ed Rendell and legislators continued Friday, with no significant breakthroughs reported. Rendell, a Democrat, and the Senate's Republican majority are divided over how to resolve the state's multibillion-dollar, recession-driven revenue shortfall.
The question of whether it is legal to order employees to work, but not pay them, is under consideration in the state Supreme Court.
The court this week scheduled an oral argument for Sept. 16 on an appeal by state employee unions to a lower court decision. That decision, issued last year, said the state must either furlough workers without pay, or pay them for the days they worked once a budget is enacted.
On Friday, the federal Department of Labor said it is investigating whether the state has violated workers' rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act by ordering them to work without regular pay.
The department received over 1,500 calls, spokeswoman Leni Uddyback-Fortson said.