Looking Forward in 2022
Over the past year, the ND SBDC was honored to assist more North Dakotans than ever before in reaching their business goals. As the state, nation, and world continue to navigate a global pandemic, North Dakota’s small business owners have proven their resiliency and grit time and time again.
In 2022, the ND SBDC will continue to grow and add to our business advising services as we work to empower small business owners to thrive, accelerating business growth in communities and positively impacting our state’s economy. As society shifts and changes, so must businesses, and so must the ND SBDC to be as effective as possible at helping small businesses thrive. Our goals for 2022 reflect these needs and we are excited to share them with you, our stakeholders.
ND SBDC Initiatives You Can Expect to See in 2022:
Increased Focus on Contracting and Procurement Assistance
The Small Business Administration (SBA) identified government contracting and procurement assistance as a 2022 priority for the nation’s SBDCs. While the SBA made this announcement near the end of 2021, ND SBDC leadership and the North Dakota Department of Commerce identified contracting and procurement as an area of need during discussions over the summer. The ND SBDC will emphasize cross-referrals and collaboration with the North Dakota Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (ND PTAC) in 2022 to encourage and assist more businesses in the state in pursuing government contracts. Additionally, the ND SBDC’s new Specialty Services Director will spend a portion of their effort assisting the ND PTAC program with clients to increase service capacity.
Succession and Exit Planning Assistance
COVID-19 has shifted and changed the economy in ways no one could have anticipated, and employees and employers alike are taking the opportunity to either pursue a career change or even retire completely. Combined with the anticipated aging and exit of the baby boomer generation from the workforce, these changes have left many businesses and business owners grappling with the question of “what next?” for their business. Will they simply close the business? Will they sell? How can they sell for the most return? To address this newly prevalent advising need ND SBDC is developing and will distribute planning guides, to be used in conjunction with advising sessions, for owners’ eventual exits from the business. Additionally, business advisors will be emphasizing the importance of early exit and succession planning to all clients.
Modern Business Needs: Training on Cybersecurity and Intellectual Property
The SBA has identified two essential training areas for SBDCs to bolster in the coming year: cybersecurity and intellectual property. Businesses and the work they do and the information they gather are increasingly shifting online, and so are criminals who hope to target those businesses and their profits. Therefore, cybersecurity training for business owners is imperative if they wish to protect their businesses, themselves, and their clients. Technology advances and career shifts are making innovation and protecting individuals’ innovative ideas before they can be exploited more important than ever before. Entrepreneurs must learn how to protect their ideas and creations as their property with new training opportunities. The ND SBDC has team members working hard to develop specialties in these areas and will be offering training opportunities in 2022.
Virtual Access Centers (VACs) and Kiosks
You may have read our August 2021 blog post, which can be re-visited here, about adding ND SBDC virtual access centers (VACs) in the more rural areas of our state to increase accessibility to services. These centers, hosted by local community partners, will be equipped with the technology and equipment, including a full computer set up with video-conferencing technology, to make advising opportunities available to all existing and potential clients. Three of the five VACs will be placed in New Town, Oakes, and Beulah. Potential locations for the remaining two VACs include Belcourt or Cavalier, and Jamestown.
While the VACs will offer our full range of services, our other accessibility initiative is placing kiosks in the buildings and offices of partner entities, such as the Secretary of State’s Offices, where clients can access our online registration system and register for services with an advisor.
Increased Focus on Rural and Underserved Populations
A focus on targeted assistance for rural and underserved communities is another 2022 SBA priority that the ND SBDC began addressing in 2021, with plans to expand in 2022. Focusing on rural has always been a specialty of the ND SBDC given the state’s geography and rural nature, but we always strive to be better, hence the Virtual Access Centers and Kiosks mentioned above. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our professional business advisors who have specialties in rural business and will emphasize leveraging their knowledge in the upcoming year. To increase services and assistance for North Dakota’s underserved populations – especially New Americans and Native Americans – the ND SBDC partnered with the Department of Commerce to develop a new position that was mentioned earlier, the Specialty Services Director. While a quarter of this Director’s time is spent assisting with procurement and contracting, most of their time will be spent working with historically underserved populations alongside and at the behest of other business advisors. Read about the Specialty Services Director position and the man who fills it, Tyler Demars, in our November 2021 Stakeholder Update.
Emphasizing and Featuring our Broad Range of Clients
The ND SBDC helps North Dakotans of all demographics pursue their dreams through a large range of industries, and in 2022 we plan to consciously feature these unique individuals and businesses that are located throughout the state. Catch these entrepreneurs and businesses on our social media accounts and in our communications and, if you’re located near enough, check them out in person if the opportunity presents itself. Highlights will include technology development accelerators and incubators, New American business owners, rural business and agribusiness, veteran business owners, businesses that export, indigenous business owners, and much more.
The ND SBDC has a lot in store for 2022 and we are excited to have our stakeholders alongside us for what we hope will be another great year for business and innovation in our state.
And all the Staff of the ND Small Business Development Network