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The Small Business Administration has named the Charleston Area Small Business Development Center the 2016 National SBDC Center of Excellence and Innovation as announced by SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. The award will be presented during ceremonies to be held May 1-2 in honor of National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C.

“National Small Business Week is an important moment when we honor our nation’s 28 million small businesses and renew our commitment to fostering the entrepreneurial spirit that is central to small business success. This year’s recipients are educators and dynamic leaders in their respective small business fields. It is an honor to celebrate their hard work and success,” Contreras-Sweet said.

The Charleston SBDC won the award after being named the South Carolina state winner and the winner for SBA Region IV, which includes South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“We are proud to be a vital resource for local small businesses, and we’re humbled to have been recognized on a national level for the success we’ve helped our clients achieve,” said Tom Lauria, who was the area manager from 2007 through 2015. “It’s a testament to the efforts of our team and the passion they show for the work they do that has allowed the center to earn this award.”

Members of the team included counselors Linda Blanton, Darrell Jones, Wayne Mulligan, Steve Taylor and Jim Wasson and administrative assistant Melida Low.

The Charleston SBDC is part of a state network of 21 centers that provide free counseling to new and existing businesses with the goal of enhancing economic development throughout the state.

In 2015, the Charleston center met with 521 clients. The counselors assisted in the creation of 32 new businesses, the acquisition of $5.3 million in capital formation and the creation or retention of 255 jobs. The government procurement assistance consultants also helped SBDC clients win $1.4 billion in government contracts.

In addition to helping entrepreneurs develop business plans and locate funding resources, the Charleston center features specialists who help businesses become eligible for government contracts, developing technology and intellectual property into a commercially viable product, and begin exporting to other countries.

Jones, who was named the center’s new manager as of January, said the staff is determined to build on its recent success.

“I’m gratified to have played a part in earning this recognition,” he said. “We hope to expand our resources to help even more small business owners and entrepreneurs with new programs and workshops that meet the growing needs of our community.”

Two centers serve the Charleston area — the main center located at 6296 Rivers Ave., Suite 300 and the satellite center located in room 256 of Bond Hall on The Citadel campus. To set up an appointment, call 843.740.6160.

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