David Martin puts on the miles as he covers the state on an ambitious mission of outreach
The University of North Dakota’s College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA) once again is home to the state’s Small Business Development Center (N.D. SBDC) Lead Center (State Office), under its recently appointed new director David Martin.
He started as the N.D. SBDC CEO earlier this year.
“Since its inception in 1986, the North Dakota Small Business Development Center has evolved into a strong statewide network of 11 offices,” said Martin, who worked for a time as director of the Fargo-Moorhead Chamber of Commerce. “The SBDC functions under the administration of the University of North Dakota College of Business & Public Administration and the state CEO.”
“The SBDC provides one-on-one consulting services to small businesses across the state and CoBPA is proud to be a partner with this program,” Martin said. “Last year, the SBDC program has served over 1,200 clients, providing over 7,500 hours of assistance. Our office notes that 650 full-time jobs were created and 689 retained in North Dakota, many of which are at small businesses that access SBDC services.”
SBDCs were created by Congress 35 years ago. Specifically the legislation provided that SBDCs were to be attached either to departments of state government or institutions of higher education.
“Then in 1993, the government changed the regulations to say if they’re attached to state government agencies they can be grandfathered to remain there, but must from 1993 forward be attached to institutions of higher education,” Martin said.
What was behind that change?
“The engagement of faculty and students and actually bringing research expertise, business school expertise, entrepreneurship expertise, to providing these services to entrepreneurs and small businesses,” Martin said. “It’s a positive flow-through from the university into the state’s business community.”
“So here at UND, we are one of two outreach programs — the other being the Center for Innovation — in the College of Business & Public Administration,” Martin said.
Martin said that collaborating with UND CoBPA Dean Margaret Williams, he returned the N.D. SBDC Lead Center back to UND once he became the new state director.
“I saw that there was a disconnect between the Lead Center located in Bismarck and the University — so we brought it back to campus,” he said.
However, that relocation doesn’t interfere with the outreach.
“I travel regularly all over the state, and regularly visit all of our eight regional centers across North Dakota: Bismarck, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Minot and Williston, and three satellite offices: Bowman, Crosby and Wahpeton,” Martin said.
“I personally have offices in Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks,” Martin said. “And, of course, I have a mobile office, too — I put 2,000 miles per month on it! That’s because it’s a great state and we have these regional centers and satellite offices and we work with them across the state. So if I’m asked to be at a meeting or an event in, say, Carrington or Cavalier, I’ll be in Carrington of Cavalier.”
Martin, originally from Pelican Rapids, Minn., has lived in Fargo for the past 32 years and started his career following in his family’s footsteps. He launched his career as an educator, like both his parents, who were teachers, and three of his four siblings, who also are teachers.
“Three of the four spouses are in education, as well, so you can see that education runs strong in our family — it was always important to me and to our family,” he said. “I actually have two degrees in education: bachelor’s, master’s and I am close to a doctorate in education.”
After retiring from his most recent position as CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, Martin joined the Fargo-based the Choice Financial Group, accumulating 10,000 miles annually, working with small businesses across North Dakota.
The SBDC works in partnership with the federal Small Business Administration, the State of North Dakota through its Commerce Department, and the North Dakota University System through UND. SBDC also works with the federally mandated Women’s Business Centers and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
“So we collaboratively provide advice, business counseling, training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state, and it really is based on the expertise that we have, and it’s all free,” said Martin. That service outreach includes the Native American and tribal business and entrepreneur communities.
“Working with partner entities such as local chambers of commerce and economic development corporations, as an example, and financial institutions, we help clients be better prepared to launch or expand businesses,” Martin said. “It’s a lot more effective than if they weren’t working with us.”
Martin notes that the partnership formula is set up to follow federal guidelines that include state and local matching funds.
“That is, by law, what must happen,” Martin said. “We can only get our federal money if it’s matched by state and local funding.”
Juan Miguel Pedraza
University & Public Affairs writer