Rhode Island Small Business Development Center appoints new leadership team

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 3, 2015 — The University of Rhode Island Division of Research and Economic Development has appointed a new leadership team for the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center. Ed Huttenhower has been appointed the state director, effective September 1, and Diane C. Fournaris was named assistant director.


“We are very excited that they will be taking up these new roles at the Small Business Development Center and look forward to their work enhancing the ability of the SBDC to serve small business needs and the people of Rhode Island,” said Gerald Sonnenfeld, URI vice president for research and economic development. “The University is very fortunate to have these two outstanding people lead the SBDC, and we look forward to an exciting future for the organization.”


The U.S. Small Business Administration awarded URI the contract to host the Rhode Island SBDC in December 2013.


Huttenhower comes to the Rhode Island after a national search. He had been director of the Saint Francis University, Pennsylvania, Small Business Development Center since 1997 and associate dean for community and economic development for Saint Francis’s School of Business since 2009. He previously directed Small Business Development Centers in Wheeling, W.Va., and Bangor, Me.


During Huttenhower’s tenure at the SBDC at Saint Francis University, it was recognized as one of the best in Pennsylvania and achieved consistently high client satisfaction. While there, he launched innovative programs involving students in the work of the SBDC that have been recognized as a best practice by accreditors. He also coordinated and participated in trade missions to Peru, South Africa, Australia, Russia and elsewhere as part of the Saint Francis SBDC’s Center for Global Competitiveness, which assisted small to medium sized businesses with international trade issues. He has a bachelor’s degree from Grove City College and an MBA from the Katz School at the University of Pittsburgh.


Fournaris was previously a regional center director for the Rhode Island SBDC and was promoted to assistant director after a national search. She has extensive experience with the RISBDC, having served as program manager, regional director, operations director and acting state director when it was hosted by Bryant University and Johnson & Wales University. Prior to joining the RISBDC, she was public relations director for the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, an international professional association; marketing director for a municipal redevelopment authority; and owner of Communications Concepts, a public relations agency specializing in high tech companies. She is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.