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Pitt SBDC earns top national honor from U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Pitt SBDC logo with the IEE office location in the background

The University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC), part of Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE) within the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the national SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award winner of 2020. The Pitt SBDC was selected for the award from more than 1,000 Small Business Development Centers across the nation.

“This award is a great recognition of the efforts of our SBDC and IEE teams and an affirmation of our missions. The small business community is vital to our region, and I am pleased that this honor might highlight the support and impact we provide to entrepreneurs and the regional economy,” said Ray Vargo, Director of the University of Pittsburgh SBDC. Mr. Vargo has served in his role since 2007 and has been with the Pitt SBDC since joining as a management consultant in 1995.

The announcement comes as part of the SBA’s National Small Business Week, an annual week of recognition for outstanding small business owners, entrepreneurs, and organizations spanning various categories. This is the first time the University of Pittsburgh SBDC has earned this recognition and it is the first time a Pennsylvania SBDC has been awarded with the honor.

“The University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center has one aim: To help local businesses—and dreams—thrive,” says Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “In realizing this aim, our team has opened countless windows of opportunity for entrepreneurs across the region and fueled economic growth throughout the Commonwealth. I am incredibly proud of its success and already looking forward to what it will accomplish—and help Pennsylvanians accomplish—next.”

The mission of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh is to grow the economy of Western Pennsylvania by providing entrepreneurs with the education, information, and tools necessary to build successful businesses. The Pitt SBDC was established in 1979 and is a member of the Pennsylvania SBDC and the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) networks. Over more than 40 years, the University of Pittsburgh SBDC has developed an impressive record of service to small business owners across Allegheny, Greene, and Washington Counties. In 2020, the Pennsylvania SBDC lead office asked Pitt SBDC to expand its services to include Beaver, Butler, and Lawrence Counties (shared with Duquesne University’s SBDC).

“As a partner of the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Center, Huntington sees firsthand how they are helping small businesses to thrive. Since 1979, the SBDC has built an impressive record of service that has not only helped our local businesses, they have helped our local economy to flourish,” said Susie Shipley, Huntington’s Western Pennsylvania & Ohio Valley Region President.

For the calendar year ended December 31, 2019, the Pitt SBDC served approximately 700 small businesses across six counties in western PA, completed more than 7,500 hours of one-on-one business consulting, recorded more than $16 million in business capital formation for clients, and created or supported nearly 3,500 regional jobs.


The Pitt SBDC team celebrates the announcement during the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week awards ceremony on September, 22, 2020.

The University of Pittsburgh SBDC was an important support line for small businesses most affected by the COVID-19 closures. In addition to helping small businesses apply for loans and grants, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as part of the federal CARES Act and the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program administered by PA’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Pitt SBDC responded within days of the shutdown with a “COVID-19 Resources & Relief for Small Businesses” webinar attended by more than 800 small business owners and organizations. Additionally, in a collaboration across various University of Pittsburgh departments, the IEE and SBDC were able to coordinate a donation of all-in-one printer/scanner devices to more than 160 small businesses to help ease the burden of many businesses’ new work-from-home operations.

“The Pitt SBDC have been phenomenal. They have been a regular source of quality, timely, helpful information, resources, and guidance. Without the support they have provided, I do not think I would have had what I needed,” said Richard W. Taylor, CEO of ImbuTec, a Carnegie, PA-based certified minority-owned construction management company, and graduate of the Pitt SBDC’s UPMC Essentials for Success diverse supplier program. “They took time to consult with me individually. I’m sure they have a million other companies to support, but I appreciated taking that time in the midst of all the insanity to focus on my situation.”

“We see the impact that our work makes with each SBDC client, and even more so throughout this pandemic. Our hope is that this recognition will encourage all small business owners across southwestern PA to engage with our services and other IEE programs,” said Michael Wholihan, Ed.D, Associate Director of the Pitt SBDC. Dr. Wholihan leads many of the Pitt SBDC’s educational programs, including recent successful programs connecting minority, veteran, LGBTQ+, and other diverse business owners with vendor opportunities through UPMC’s Supplier Diversity Program.


About the University of Pittsburgh SBDC

The Pitt SBDC, established in 1979, is within the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), part the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship housed under the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor of Research. The Pitt SBDC provides business owners with the information and tools necessary to build successful businesses. The SBDC’s mission is to develop and strengthen the businesses of southwestern Pennsylvania by imparting knowledge and expertise through professional consulting and education. The Pitt SBDC is a Center of Excellence for Digital Services as designated by the Pennsylvania SBDC as a superior provider of digital technology services including information technology and e-commerce. For more information, visit sbdc.pitt.edu.

About the University of Pittsburgh Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor of Research

Pitt Research is led by the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Pittsburgh. The Senior Vice Chancellor for Research provides strategic vision, leadership, and partnership expertise that helps University of Pittsburgh faculty and students advance their world-class research, scholarship, and innovation. Pitt Research couples the research efforts of faculty and students to funding agencies, corporate sponsors, other institutions, and government entities, and assures integrity, compliance, and excellence.