Small business development center fights to stay open

Some Southern Illinois University programs are fighting the odds to keep services running for families.

The Small Business Development Center was forecast to close in the end of March because of Illinois’ budget stalemate, but it’s finding a way to stay open and keep services going in the meantime.

The staff at the SBDC helps hundreds of people every year turn ideas into inventions and start their new businesses. SBDC Business Development Director Robyn Russell says, without the promised grant money from the state, they thought they’d end up closing.

"The phone was ringing off the wall. We’re getting emails. We’d have clients that we hadn’t worked with in years saying ‘Your operation was critical to my starting my company,’ you know, ‘What can we do to help?’" Russell said.

Temporarily finding funding kept the doors open at the Small Business Development Center so it can continue to help new and potential businesses.

"They were a huge resource. We wouldn’t have ever been able to start our shop here without them," said Saluki Screen Repair owner Pryor Jordan.

Jordan runs Saluki Screen Repair in Carbondale and the new location in Marion. He started the company three years ago and says he still regularly turns to the center for help and business advice. He says without their help, he wouldn’t have his own business today.

"They helped us with everything from figuring out a budget to planning our finances," Jordan said.

Russell says they have hundreds of stories just like his. She says that community support pushed them to keep going and find stopgap funding through June 30. If there’s no budget by then, she says she’s not sure what they’ll do.

"But at a time like this, a big piece of the puzzle is missing and it’s hard to make it all work," Russell said.

But she says they won’t be closing the doors at the SBDC without a fight.

The temporary funding the SBDC is using now will keep the center open through the end of June. Beyond that, the center says it’ll again be faced with closing its doors if it can’t find more funding.

One other program at SIU has been able to save itself from closing: SIU’s Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. It was set to close at the end of May but — with some staff and faculty leaving on their own, a new service fee and by dipping in to reserves — it is now able to stay open through the end of the year.

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