The North Central Iowa Small Business Development Center, Fort Dodge, has earned the 2014 Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award from the U. S. Small Business Administration for the state of Iowa.
Lisa Shimkat, regional director, and Cindy Schieber, assistant director, have been recognized as two "efficient, hard-working" counselors who have earned this award for their regional SBDC center.
The award is not presented annually; it is only awarded when an SBDC service center has shown outstanding excellence and innovation that needs to be recognized.
"We were shocked, and honored, and it's something we couldn't have achieved on our own," Shimkat said. "I attribute the success not only to Cindy and I, but also to the partnerships we've built out there. It creates a resource we can build upon to make a stronger entrepreneurial region."
The North Central Iowa SBDC covers a 10-county area, she said, so those partnerships are essential.
"We have a huge territory. We have three community colleges in our territory, we have two different council governments, as well as three regional economic development groups," Shimkat said. "You have to focus on developing those partnerships so you can get the resources immediately to the small business owner."
In the first six months of the federal year, the center has already surpassed many of the Small Business Administration milestones, she said. Since Oct. 1, 2013, it has counseled more than 130 clients, helped start 17 small businesses, helped to create 27 new jobs and retain four jobs, and has brought $1.455 million of capital infusion into projects.
The center also puts on an entrepreneurial youth camp every year to teach fifth- through eighth-graders about being an entrepreneur.
The North Central Iowa SBDC was nominated by former Iowa SBDC State Director Jim Heckmann.
"The dedication to small business and nascent entrepreneurs is almost a religion for Shimkat and Schieber," Heckmann said. "They find great satisfaction in their work and the Iowa Small Business Development Center network as a whole is the better for it."
The Iowa Small Business Development Center is a nationally accredited outreach program of Iowa State University's College of Business. Partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the organization has 15 regional business assistance centers located strategically across the state and one international trade center located centrally. Since program's inception in 1981, the Iowa SBDC has helped hundreds of thousands of Iowa businesses and entrepreneurs via free, customized, professional business counseling and practical, affordable training.