Published, April 2002 for NBDC's 25th Anniversary
Through 25 years of service to the business
community in Nebraska and to higher
education in Nebraska, the Nebraska Business Development Center has amassed thousands of small victories that together mean a better economy and a better life for all Nebraskans. Beginning with a focus on small businesses through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Center program and expanding through technology training, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Procurement Technical Assistance Program, the Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center, Business Training, and other programs, NBDC has touched businesses and communities throughout Nebraska. It has assisted businesses through economic distress and expansion and has enhanced the skills of thousands of people working in those businesses.
The SBDC Beginning
In the late 1970s, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was looking for ways to expand
the availability of management and technical assistance to small businesses. The SBA’s own management assistance officers were overwhelmed with demand. SBA knew that it would never be able to secure enough funding to provide
sufficient numbers of management assistance officers nationwide. Previous efforts to provide management assistance through the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Small Business Institute (SBI) were successful but limited by the volunteer nature of these efforts. In 1977, SBA began an experiment with eight universities that it initially called University Business Development Centers and later called Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).
At that time, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNOmaha) College of Business Administration operated the largest SBI program in the nation. The SBI program used teams of students, operating under the guidance of professors, to study small businesses and prepare case reports for those small businesses. In 1976 UNOmaha produced 80 SBI cases, giving valuable experience to both undergraduate and graduate students and providing valuable research to small business owners. In
addition, faculty in the UNOmaha College of Business Administration had conducted, in 1975, a special relocation analysis for businesses in Niobrara, Nebraska for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With this performance record, UNOmaha was selected by SBA as one of eight universities to pilot the SBDC program.
Under the guidance of its first director, David Ambrose, the NBDC provided sub contracts to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Kearney State College, Wayne State College, and Chadron State College to provide small business assistance services in their regions of Nebraska. UNOmaha was one of only two of the original SBDC universities to provide statewide services (the other was the University of Georgia). This approach was unusually successful in reaching a wider market of small businesses. When Congress passed the Small Business Development Center Act in 1980 statewide service was mandated for all SBDC programs.
Robert Bernier, who became NBDC state director in 1979, guided NBDC through the transition to the legislatively authorized SBDC program. Only five of the original eight universities made the transition. Hal Daub, who then served as the Congressman from Omaha, played a key role in maintaining funding for Nebraska. The management of limited finances was essential during the early NBDC years and was made possible largely through the dedicated service of Dona Hoskinson, who served as NBDC accounting technician for more than 15 years.
Throughout its history, NBDC has worked closely with the SBA Nebraska District Office in the development of its small business programs. In its early years, NBDC especially benefited from the advice of Patrick Smythe, assigned as an advisor; Craig Rice, SBA project officer for NBDC; Gwen Moran, SBA management assistance clerk, and Rick Budd, SBA district director. More recently NBDC has worked closely with Donald Walker and Barbara Foster, both of whom have served as SBA project officer for NBDC, and SBA District Director Glenn Davis.
NBDC Service Centers
NBDC’s statewide service has been made
possible by the dedication of its consulting staff, by close association with its partners, and by the establishment of offices across the state. ^
The Omaha service center has been located at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center/State Office Building at 1313 Farnam since 1981. Edward Conoan was the first director of the Omaha office. Leon Milobar, Craig Hergott, Jeanne Eibes, Jacqueline Staudt-Netzel, Robert Toth, Nate Brei, Mirrella Adante, Melinda Cruz and Thomas McCabe each provided leadership during their tenures in charge of the Omaha consulting office. Over the years, much of the consulting in the Omaha office has been provided by graduate assistants. At the same time, NBDC has enjoyed the dedicated service of part-time consultants. Mary Williamson, a retired UNOmaha Communications professor, has given many years of dedicated service to NBDC. An expert in advertising, Dr. Williamson has guided many NBDC clients in promotion campaigns. The late Albert Massero, who was an instructor in the UNOmaha College of Business Administration, also contributed significantly to consultations in the Omaha office. He specialized in financial forecasting.
Robert Justis, then a professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, was the first director of the Lincoln office. Later directors included Stu Spero, Larry Cox, now a researcher in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, and Irene Cherhoniak. The Lincoln office moved to the new Lincoln Chamber of Commerce facility in 1997 where it is directed by Cliff Mosteller. In this new location the Lincoln Center includes a procurement technical assistance consultant, Joe Breault, and a manufacturing extension engineer, Patrick Defebaugh. Rick Yoder had served as MEP consultant in Lincoln before becoming director of NBDC’s Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center.
The NBDC service center at Chadron State College also celebrates 25 years, and with the same director. Cliff Hanson is the longest serving SBDC center director in the United States. The program at Chadron began when NBDC primarily provided assistance through classroom projects. Through the years, Hanson has provided assistance to hundreds of businesses in northwest Nebraska, serving a territory that stretches east to Valentine. A community leader, who has served as mayor of Chadron, Hanson has also contributed significantly to business development in Chadron with his own ventures, including a motel, a restaurant, and an assisted living center.
Another of the original NBDC centers is at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The first director was Gene Koepke, who later served as dean of the UNK College of Business and Technology and then as UNK Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Kay Payne served for many years as director of the Kearney NBDC office, transforming it into a full-time service center. She now directs the UNK Center for Community Development. Susan Jensen and current director Odee Ingersoll have provided distinguished service at Kearney.
The NBDC service center at Wayne State College began under the leadership of Vaughn Benson, who continues his leadership as dean of School of Business and Technology. The first director was John Paxton, followed by Terry Henderson, Jeryl Nelson, and Tim Garvin. Loren Kucera, director of the NBDC Wayne State College service center, is a recipient of the ASBDC Star Performer Award. Noted for his successful loan packaging, Loren has been the most successful of all NBDC service center directors in nominating clients for the SBA Small Business of the Year award. This past year the Wayne State College center began a specialized center for family-owned businesses with federal funding obtained for them by Congressman Doug Bereuter.
The NBDC centers at Peru State College, North Platte, and Scottsbluff were established in 1985 with expanded SBA funding and improvement to the NBDC state-aided account. Jerry Breazile currently serves as Peru director. He was preceded by David Ruenholl and Dottie Holliday. Dean Kurth has served as director of the North Platte center, which is housed at Mid-Plains Community College, since its inception. Thomas Gorman of Mid-Plains Community College provided significant assistance in establishing the NBDC presence there through his small business training programs. Ingrid Battershell is director of the Scottsbluff center, housed in the U.S. Bank building. She is a recipient of the ASBDC start performer award and is another noted loan packager among NBDC consultants. Jeff Reifschneider was the first Scottsbluff Center director.
Loan packaging has become an increasingly important service of NBDC. In the decade of the 1980s, the SBA prohibited small business development centers from packaging loans, though they could do market research, strategic planning, and financial projections for business plans. By the decade of the 1990s, however, changes in the banking industry and SBA loan programs made loan packaging as a service of small business development centers essential. NBDC trains all of its business consultants in loan packaging, primarily with a series of courses offered by the National Development Council. In the early 1990s NBDC was packaging about $10–12 million a year in commercial loans for small businesses. Today, it packages about $35–40 million of commercial loans for small businesses—both SBA guaranteed loans and conventional loans.
NBDC Graduate Assistantships
Service learning is a new term for a concept
successfully employed at NBDC for a
quarter century. Because NBDC grew out of the earlier Small Business Institute (SBI) program, which had been started in 1972, there existed a confidence in the ability of students in the UNOmaha College of Business Administration to perform valuable services for small businesses. Under the leadership of marketing professors William Brown and David Ambrose, the SBI program at UNOmaha had grown to be the largest among the more than 500 such programs then supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration. ^
In its early years, NBDC incorporated the SBI
program, using UNOmaha College of Business Administration seniors and graduate assistants to provide case studies for small businesses under the guidance of a professor. When SBA discontinued the SBI program in 1994, NBDC continued its use of graduate assistants for small business case studies and other projects. Its graduate assistantship program has been made possible through additional federal grants and private sector contracts. NBDC has had more than 100 graduate assistants. Today NBDC employs 16 graduate assistants. They work with small businesses through the SBDC, P2RIC and MEP programs. They also work in technology training and in project management, the latter through a contract with Union Pacific Railroad.
Although other SBDC programs use graduate assistants, they are generally used in a research support role. The NBDC program is unique in that its graduate assistants actually perform as lead consultants. In this way they get the experience of working closely with small business owners.
Through its graduate assistantship program, NBDC has also contributed to the diversity of students in the UNOmaha Master of Business Administration degree program. A significant number of graduate assistants are international students. NBDC graduate assistants have come from 16 countries. Graduate assistants receive a full tuition scholarship and a monthly stipend.
These graduate assistants have used the skills they obtained in their MBA program at UNOmaha and their work at NBDC to obtain responsible positions at Omaha firms, in firms throughout the U.S. and, for international students, in their native
As one of the five surviving pilot SBDC
programs and through the dedication of its staff, NBDC played a significant part in the early development of the SBDC program. State Director Robert Bernier wrote the first bylaws of the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) and served as its first secretary-treasurer. As the SBDC program expanded to all 50 states NBDC sponsored, for SBA, a training seminar in Omaha for state directors of new SBDC programs. NBDC held an ASBDC convention in Omaha in 1983. Bernier also helped establish the ASBDC accreditation process, serving on the first accreditation on-site review team. He has since served on accreditation teams to more than a dozen states.^
Bernier was elected president-elect of the ASBDC in 1988 and was assigned the task of developing an ASBDC professional office. That office remained in Omaha until 1997 when it was relocated to Washington, DC. John Sandefur, who had been a graduate assistant at NBDC and received his MBA at UNOmaha, was the first executive director of the ASBDC. In 1993 Sandefur became state director of the Alabama SBDC. During his term as president of ASBDC, Bernier led a successful effort to increase SBDC funding by $10 million. He also opened ASBDC services and its annual convention, which had been limited to state directors and assistant and associate state directors, to all SBDC local center directors and consultants.
Leon Milobar, NBDC Associate State Director for Consulting, has served on the ASBDC Associate/Assistant State Directors Committee where he has been active in developing national performance standards.
NBDC has been committed to rural develop-
ment since its inception. That commitment
was formed at the UNOmaha College of Business Administration in its pre-NBDC small business development activities, including the 1975 consulting project in Niobrara. ^
For many years, NBDC provided hundreds of free seminars on small business management and entrepreneurship to chambers of commerce and commercial clubs throughout Nebraska. These programs were organized and coordinated by Sterling Kent, who served as Assistant State Director of NBDC from 1978 until his death in 1989. Kent had been executive director of the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce for ten years and had worked for the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Kearney State College Professor Gene Koepke and UNOmaha Professors David Ambrose, John Hafer, Roger Hayen, Frank Forbes and Bruce Kirchhoff were among the most active seminar leaders.
Albert Massero, who also gave many workshops throughout Nebraska on small business finance, served as an NBDC financial consultant to many Nebraska businesses. In 1980 Massero spent three weeks in Grand Island to provide financial reconstruction services to businesses impacted by the tornado there. David Ambrose, Sterling Kent, and Roger Hayen also served in the Grand Island tornado relief effort.
David Ambrose developed the Nebraska Rural Communities Program as a part of NBDC. In this program a rural community was selected. UNOmaha MBA students, taking their capstone policy course in the summer, would study the social and economic dynamics of the community. UNOmaha Sociology Professor William Clute would guide them in their study of the social dynamics of the community. Then the students would spend two weeks living in the community and studying a specific business. By day they would work in the businesses. Each evening Ambrose would hold a class session in which students would explain what they had learned. Ambrose would encourage the students to reflect on the problems and opportunities of each business and to develop strategies they would employ for the business. When the students returned to Omaha they prepared a comprehensive business analysis and review for their businesses. They would then return to the community and share that analysis with the business owner.
The Nebraska Rural Communities Program began in Superior in 1977 and was conducted in different communities for 20 years. In some of those years MBA students from Creighton University, Kearney State College, and the University of South Dakota participated. The Nebraska Rural Communities Program was recognized by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge with its Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education in 1981, by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (the accrediting body for business colleges) with its Exxon Award for Innovation in Graduate Education in 1982, and with awards from many other organizations. It was also described in 1982 feature articles in The Wall Street Journal and Business Week.
The continued NBDC commitment to rural development is realized through its support of SBDC service centers in Wayne, Peru, Kearney, North Platte, Scottsbluff, and Chadron and its Manufacturing Extension Partnership service center in Norfolk. NBDC monitors its effectiveness in reaching rural Nebraska by documenting the number of communities it serves with consulting and training. In its 25 years that number has never been below 250 communities served annually.
I n 1983, Roger Hayen, then a professor of
information sciences in the UNOmaha
Collegeof Business Administration, approached Dean Larry Trussell with the idea that a computer-training program be developed within the College. The IBM PC had just been introduced and was beginning to be embraced by businesses. Trussell turned to NBDC to manage the program. It became the first effort by NBDC to expand beyond its initial focus on small business to provide business development services to Nebraska businesses of all sizes.^
The initial program was developed by Hayen and Freddie Layberger and was later managed by Sterling Kent. It initially focused on training employees of Omaha area businesses and organizations how to use a personal computer and the new software being developed for business use—such as VisiCalc and WordPerfect. It featured intensive hands-on training with each student having a PC to learn on. UNOmaha Chancellor Del Weber enabled the project to begin by allocating $25,000 from the University of Nebraska Foundation Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund for a ten-station classroom in the Peter Kiewit Conference Center. NBDC earned sufficient revenue that year to repay the investment by building a computer lab in the UNOmaha College of Business Administration building (now Roskens Hall).
Successful in its early years, the NBDC Computer Training Program suffered a decline in demand as Omaha area companies filled their need for basic computer training. In 1991, Craig Hergott, then director of the NBDC Omaha Service Center, accepted the challenge of revitalizing the program and was promoted to NBDC associate state director for training. He called on Omaha businesses to determine emerging needs. Suzanne Marchant was the first director of the computer-training program. Skilled computer training specialists were recruited. One of these was Janet Tschudin, who was promoted to director of technology training after Ms. Marchant left in 1993. Under her guidance the NBDC computer training program has consistently upgraded its offerings to include object oriented programming, web programming and development, network administration, and other advanced offerings. In recognition of this elevated level of offerings the name of the program was changed to NBDC Technology Training in 1999.
Today NBDC Technology Training has six full-time computer training specialists and additional dedicated contract trainers. It added a second training laboratory at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center in 1993, two training labs in the Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Mega Mart in 1995, and a training lab at the NBDC EntrepreneurShop at 108th and Dodge in 2001. It generates revenue in excess of $1.5 million annually and is completely self-
NBDC Special Initiatives
Women Business Ownership
Women business ownership was the first
NBDC special emphasis program. A 13-
week television series that included discussions with successful women business owners was produced and telecast on KMTV and KYNE-TV in 1982. The television series was followed by a conference for women interested in starting a business that drew more than 300 participants.^
In the mid-80s the difficult Nebraska economy prompted NBDC State Director Robert Bernier to develop, under a grant from the SBA Office of Women’s Business Ownership, a six-part video series for businesses facing difficult economic times that was specifically oriented to women business owners.
For these programs Bernier received the Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge and the Sears Women in Business Innovation Award from the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Discussions regarding the establishment
of a Manufacturing Extension Partnership
(MEP) in Nebraska began in 1993. State Director Bernier participated in the meetings that defined the proposal to be submitted by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The proposal submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reflected positions insisted upon by Bernier, including that Nebraska design and deliver its own MEP program rather than contract it to another state and that Nebraska’s program be a true partnership among Nebraska agencies committed to delivering management and technical assistance to businesses in Nebraska. The Nebraska MEP began with a partnership of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the Nebraska Business Development Center, the UNL Food Processing Center, the UNL College of Engineering and Technology, and the UNL Cooperative Extension Service.^
The MEP program experienced difficulties in focusing on its mission of providing process improvement and profitability enhancement assistance to Nebraska’s manufacturers until 1997 when Darl Naumann was named MEP director and the MEP partnership was consolidated into the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, NBDC and the UNL Food Processing Center. Associate State Director Leon Milobar spearheaded MEP service for NBDC and consultants Gisele Olney, Renee Held, and Roger McCullough provided improved outreach. The success of the Nebraska MEP program since is indicated in its perfect rating on the NIST performance matrix in 1999 and 2000. The Nebraska MEP is still the only MEP program in the nation to have achieved a perfect rating.
The NBDC services in the Nebraska MEP were further enhanced when Martin Kosteckei became team leader in 2001. Bringing extensive production experience to NBDC, Kosteckei has expanded Lean Enterprise implementation programs and secured long-term relationships with manufacturing clients.
Center for Management of
The Nebraska Research Initiative funded the
Center for Management of Information
Technology (CMIT) in 1993 under a proposal written by NBDC State Director Robert Bernier. Bernier also served as director of CMIT from 1993 until 1996 when CMIT was merged into the new College of Information Science and Technology. Designed as a research and curriculum development center in the emerging field of technology management, CMIT employed four new faculty members with instructional ties to psychology, computer science, and information science and quantitative analysis. Research initiatives were pursued in artificial intelligence, computer assurance, and expert systems. Additional funding for these pursuits was obtained from local industry, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CMIT faculty engaged in the research included Philip Craiger, Azad Azadmanesh and Daniel Peak.^
In 1995, UNOmaha began the process of forming the new College of Information Science and Technology. Bernier served on the academic planning committee for the new College and chaired the search committee for its founding dean.
Regional Information Center
Rick Yoder joined the NBDC staff in
1996 as a consultant in the Manufacturing
Extension Partnership program. A registered professional engineer, Yoder had previously worked in Alaska and in Lincoln, Nebraska in environmental engineering. He prepared a successful proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency for NBDC to establish a Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center (P2RIC) for Federal Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska). P2RIC provides research for pollution prevention consultants throughout the region. With the assistance of David Nielsen and David McKnight in the UNOmaha College of Business Administration technology department and with Dan Klima and other members of the NBDC Technology Training Program, Yoder built a model P2RIC that used a unique web-based consulting assistance resource. Kathleen Cardwell serves as librarian for P2RIC.^
With the record of innovation and dedication Yoder built with P2RIC, NBDC was able to secure a contract from EPA in 2002 to operate the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2RX). Jean Waters joined NBDC in 2002 to manage P2RX, which coordinates the eight P2RIC programs in the nation.
Procurement Technical Assistance Center
In 1997, NBDC was asked by the Nebraska De
partment of Economic Development to take
over the Nebraska Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) program. Funded under a cooperative agreement from the Defense Logistics Agency (U.S. Department of Defense), PTAC provides technical assistance to small businesses in the preparation and submission of proposals to the federal government for production contracts and in the implementation of those contracts.^
Gerald Dalton was the first director of the NBDC PTAC program. He established offices in Omaha and Lincoln and began the outreach effort. His untimely death in 1999 led to the promotion of Michael Hall, who had extensive experience in procurement for the U.S. Air Force, to NBDC PTAC director. Under Hall’s leadership, PTAC increased federal procurement contracts for Nebraska firms by 63% to more than $54 million.
Through the leadership of Larry Trussell, Louis
Pol and others in the College of Business
Administration, Wally Bacon in political science, and international studies dean, Thomas Gouttierre, UNOmaha received a grant in 1991 from the U.S. Information Agency to provide transition assistance to “Al. I. Cuza” University in Iasi, Romania following the collapse of its Communist government. NBDC personnel assisted in the activities of this grant, especially in assisting in the organization of a small business development center. Robert Bernier and Leon Milobar made several trips to Iasi. NBDC staff assisted by providing collaborative experiences to Cuza University faculty members and students who came to Omaha. NBDC also provided graduate assistantships to Romanians pursuing an MBA at UNOmaha. ^
Dumitru Oprea, the director of the Romanian-American Center for Enterprise Development (CRADIP), later became dean of the business college at Cuza University and then its rector. Through Rector Oprea’s continued commitment to the collaboration of UNOmaha and “Al. I. Cuza” University, NBDC staff and UNOmaha business faculty maintained the collaboration of NBDC and CRADIP after the expiration of the grant. Constantin Sasu, the first small business professor at Cuza University, was a Fulbright Scholar at NBDC during the 1997-98 academic year. For his work with Cuza University and CRADIP, Bernier was recognized by Cuza University with the degree Honorary Professor.
As a result of its successful program in Romania, UNOmaha received a grant in 1994 from the Eurasia Foundation to conduct a similar program in a neighboring country—the newly independent state of Moldova. Leon Milobar did extensive work assisting the Moldovan Academy of Economic Studies develop a network of small business development centers. Elena Chislari, director of the Moldova small business development center, was a Fulbright Scholar at UNOmaha in the 2001-02 academic year.
Grain Elevator Safety
In 2000, NBDC received a two-year grant from
the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a training program to promote safety in grain elevators. NBDC is using simulation to take trainees through a virtual grain elevator. They are taught to identify potential dangers and safety violations. The training is designed to be delivered via the Internet or by CD-ROM.
NBDC Consultant Roger McCullough directs the OSHA project. It was developed with the assistance of Philip Craiger, associate professor of computer science, in cooperation with the Nebraska Grain and Feed Dealers Association. Julie Wilhelm, a member of the NBDC Board of Advisors and owner of the Wilhelm Grain Elevator in Humboldt, was instrumental in establishing the relationships that made this project possible.