VtSBDC selected as “hub” grantee in SBA’s Community Navigator Program with nine partners identified as “spokes”
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RANDOLPH CENTER, Vt. (Jan. 14, 2022) – As part of a national initiative introduced by President Biden and Vice President Harris, Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) has been chosen as one of 51 grantees nationwide to be part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program. There were more than 700 submissions for the program.

According to the SBA, the Community Navigator Pilot Program is designed to “reduce barriers that all small businesses — including those owned by disadvantaged groups such as veterans, women and those from rural communities —often face in accessing critical support.”

As one of 11 Tier 2 grantees, VtSBDC will receive $2.5 million to fund the program over a two-year period. Tier 2 grantees support an individual state, region, municipality, or city with total service population of greater than or equal to 500,000.

“We are excited about being selected for the Tier 2 grant and working with nine Vermont partner organizations on this two-year project,” said Linda Rossi, State Director of VtSBDC. “We look forward to this extraordinary opportunity to apply our experience to help develop Vermont’s entrepreneurs and support the growth of small businesses in our state. This grant will fund an array of services provided by the nine spokes and enable us to make important inroads on our shared goals for the target populations: communities of color, women, veterans, and rural communities.”

The Community Navigator Pilot Program uses a “hub and spoke” model, with VtSBDC as the hub, and nine spoke organizations that will create collective impact. Together, they will leverage partnerships with deeply trusted community-based organizations to help small businesses navigate government resources and tap into critical resources, according to the SBA’s plan.

A link to the project and activities being planned and services now available from each of the nine spokes is here: 

Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP) | Vermont Small Business Development Center (vtsbdc.org)

In preparation for the grant application, VtSBDC facilitated many meetings and one-on-one discovery sessions to review, discuss and understand recent research, surveys, and COVID-related experiences with the target populations. These meetings emphasized obstacles the target populations continue to face, and which have become more challenging because of COVID-19, to build consensus among the prospective spokes to define the focus of the Community Navigator two-year grant.  

The “spoke” partner organizations are:

  • Vermont Law School (VLS)
  • Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) Financial Futures Program
  • Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF)
  • Center for Women and Enterprise (CWEVT)
  • Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation (CVEDC)
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC)
  • Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA)
  • Vermont Professionals of Color Network (VT POC)
  • Main Street Alliance-Vermont (MSA-VT)

The well-balanced network of partner organizations recruited by VtSBDC will help address the four identified gap areas of: financial, digital, and legal literacy while increasing cultural knowledge, awareness and greater sensitivity through diversity, equity, and inclusivity efforts across the technical assistance provider network of Vermont.  

“Main Street Alliance of Vermont is thrilled to participate in the Community Navigator Pilot Program as an “Outreach Spoke”, said Morgan Nichols, New England Regional Manager of Main Street Alliance. “We seek to create opportunities to connect with small businesses from throughout the state and take time to listen deeply. Our main priority is to understand what is working well and establish how Vermont might better serve our small businesses so that we can level the playing field and create a more equitable small business economy”.

In addition to spokes, VtSBDC has many partners that will be included in the broader communications and may serve as host locations for Community Navigator activities, including economic development and technical assistance partners and statewide and regional chambers of commerce, banks, libraries, schools, and more.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized building our small business ecosystems back better so that all of our entrepreneurs have a fair shot at achieving the American dream of business ownership,” said Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “We need to meet businesses where they are with resources to start, grow and be resilient, and the Community Navigator Pilot Program will power a trusted network of community partners to connect America’s entrepreneurs with the SBA. The program’s Community Navigators will develop strong relationships with deeply trusted community-based organizations that will tap into one-on-one, targeted support from programs designed to help them create jobs and drive innovation.” 

For the SBA press release about the Community Navigator Grant: https://www.sba.gov/article/2021/oct/28/sba-administrator-guzman-biden-harris-administration-announce-community-navigator-pilot-program

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