My Turn: Governor’s budget jeopardizes future of small businesses like mine

For the Monitor
Published: 2/27/2021 6:00:06 AM

As a small-business owner, I know firsthand how critical New Hampshire’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is, especially during the COVID pandemic, which has devastated our Main Street economy.

In the face of the sometimes overwhelming challenges brought by the pandemic, the SBDC has helped businesses like mine overcome them. At a time when many small businesses couldn’t get the attention of their banks, or answers from the government, the SBDC was there with reliable information and practical support.

I began working with the SBDC eight years ago when I was a photographer looking to leave my corporate career. My adviser helped me set benchmarks, reach goals, and launch a business that sustained my family. Later, when I moved on to my second business, Coworking House in Milford, my adviser helped with every step, from business planning to running cash flow projections to helping us open our doors and market to our customer base.

Like so many other business owners, I still meet with the SBDC every month to continue helping my business grow. Their support and resources are invaluable to me and business owners across the state.

That’s why I was so disappointed to learn that Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget eliminates funding for the SBDC, threatening the future of small businesses in New Hampshire.

My small business won’t see much benefit from the proposed business tax cut, but I can tell you we may not be here without the help of the SBDC.

The SBDC helps new small businesses launch, thrive, and create jobs. Last year, the SBDC assisted 7,000 New Hampshire businesses, helped them to access $44 million in capital, saved 1,300 jobs, and had an overall economic impact of $166 million. These results are especially impressive given that the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the Main Street economy.

The pandemic’s economic effects would have been significantly worse without the SBDC. As we continue through the COVID pandemic, we need to continue – if not increase – support to our small businesses, which is why this is the worst possible time to eliminate the SBDC.

Unfortunately, despite the many benefits of the SBDC, Gov. Sununu proposed to effectively eliminate it. Without the modest cash match the state has provided since the program’s inception – a match provided by states across the country – the SBDC will lose up to $1.5 million in federal funds for the biennium, resulting in a likely shutdown over the coming year.

Without the SBDC, small businesses are forced to go up a creek without a paddle as they navigate the complicated COVID economic recovery process.

If the governor’s budget passes and the SBDC shuts down, it will leave New Hampshire as the only state in the nation without a Small Business Development Center. It cannot be stressed enough how this would be a catastrophe for New Hampshire’s economy. Without the SBDC, we take away access to mentors and resources that would help their business thrive, we risk not being able to attract young people from the Granite State and from all over the country to build a business here, and we effectively lose the best program we have to support Main Street businesses.

In short, eliminating the SBDC means suffering an economic loss of millions of dollars, losing countless jobs, and jeopardizing the livelihoods of so many Granite Staters.

Thankfully, other businesses are speaking out against the governor’s budget – and I encourage more business owners to speak up, too. Please call your representatives and state senators.

We often hear about how important small businesses are to our economy – but it doesn’t feel like it right now. Cutting the SBDC sends a clear message that small businesses like mine are not a priority. New Hampshire’s small businesses deserve better from Gov. Sununu. I implore our legislators to do what they can to prevent this cut in funding from happening – for the future of New Hampshire’s small businesses and our economy.

(Kristin Hardwick is the founder of CoHo in Milford.)


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