State, regional directors appointed at URI Small Business Development Center

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KINGSTON, R.I. – August 27, 2014 – The Small Business Development Center at the University of Rhode Island has appointed Mark Stewart, formerly director of the SBDC at Halifax Community College in Weldon, N.C., as the Center’s state director. He took over for James Petell, URI associate vice president for intellectual property and economic development, who had served as interim director since January.

“We’re very excited that Mark has come on board and that the office is up and running and serving clients every day,” said Petell. “We’re already cross-complementing the SBDC with Polaris Manufacturing Extension Program and the Business Engagement Center here at URI to provide a unified location to support the local business community and build economic development.”

Stewart earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Edinboro University, a master’s in human resource development from Villanova University, and an MBA from Eastern University.

In addition to Stewart, directors of three Rhode Island regional SBDC offices have also been hired:

* Diane Fournaris, the former assistant state director of the SBDC when it was based at Johnson & Wales University, has been appointed director of the Southern Rhode Island regional office, which is located at URI;

* Douglas Jobling, who served as the state SBDC director when the Center was based at Bryant College, now directs the Northern Rhode Island regional office, located at the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce in Lincoln; and

* Josh Daly, previously a business counselor at the New Orleans SBDC, has been named director of the Providence regional office at Commerce Rhode Island.

Each regional office will also have a business counselor, who is yet to be hired. An assistant state director, reporting to Stewart, is also expected to be named shortly.

“We’re moving to an organizational model in which the regional directors and business counselors work much more closely with clients, rather than hiring consultants to do that work,” said Stewart. “From my experience, having close relationships with clients allows us to be stronger advocates and pays big dividends.”

Stewart is already working on a partnership with Cox Communications to develop a series of small business seminars to provide support to Cox’s business clientele.

The U.S. Small Business Administration awarded the contract to host the Rhode Island SBDC to URI in December. It previously was hosted by Bryant University for 23 years, followed by Johnson & Wales University for the past seven years. The Center is funded with a $631,000 grant from the Small Business Administration. A line item in the 2015 state budget will provide an additional $250,000 to the Center in the coming year.

Photo by Nora Lewis