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Governor Corbett's Higher Education Funding Cut Hurts Small Business

AcousticSheep, LLC is located in Centre County, just minutes from Penn State University, where me (the CEO) and my husband (the CTO) continue to work. We're very lucky to be here because we have easy access to tremendous talent and enthusiasm for our business. Penn State Outreach has been instrumental in helping us grow as a small business. When we started, we took more than half of the classes through the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is funded by Penn State Outreach, to learn everything from writing a business plan, keeping accounting records (multiple classes), managing employees, and inexpensive marketing (including a separate class on Search Engine Optimization). Those classes were quite affordable for us, and comparable services elsewhere would cost several hundred dollars, which we could not afford as a start-up. Plus, our small business advisor is fantastic. She knows everybody in town, all of the resourses, and continues to help us make helpful connections. We're in touch weekly, and I present in front of her entrepreneurship class frequently.

Last year, our SBDC small business advisor hooked us up with Happy Valley Communications (HVC), a group of marketing students at Penn State who provide their services for free. This (free) service got us a great (free) product showcase in Passport Magazine! From there, we learned what PR firms do and started to work with one when the students were gone over the summer. We have since hired our own PR person who also works at Penn State. This semester we are working with some engineering seniors at Penn State on some top secret SleepPhones and RunPhones development. For a senior project, these students are required to work with companies needing to develop a product. There are dozens of businesses working with the seniors every year. The SBDC had suggested that we work with them and even helped us with the project proposal presentation. The SBDC also spearheaded the Entrepreneurship Week last semester in which we ultimately gave 2 presentations about our business. The second presentation through InnoBlue (a student entreprenuership group in Penn State) helped us with free publicity and helped us make contacts with various investment sources like venture capitolists and angel investors.

All of this is to say that we rely heavily upon our SBDC for great local business opportunities. I don't know where SleepPhones would be today were it not for the continued advice from our SBDC advisor and the many Outreach classes which we continue to attend. The Pennsylvania Governor Corbett is cutting the funding to Penn State by 52% this year. Our fiscal year starts in July, and we expect to see most of the Outreach services cut completely. Our small business advisor's job will likely be cut, and we won't have access to the Outreach classes or her advice anymore. She's the sole breadwinner for her family, which has 2 kids in college (one at Penn State). If her job is cut, then she will need to find another job and may move out of Centre County.

The same situation holds for hundreds of other families who depend on Penn State for their jobs. And I know that we won't be able to get the same level of quality advice and service to grow our small business anymore. When cuts are made to higher education, even local small businesses are hurt. For a governor to talks endlessly about being business friendly, he is making things much worse for us as a business. Here is a great video about how Penn State helps business growth.

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