When the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic appeared in New Braunfels, the initial challenges were what does this mean to me as a business, how long is this going to last, and how long will my emergency fund (if there is one) last? The challenge with all of these questions from small business lead to numerous referrals to our partners at the UTSA Small Business Development Center, or Spark SBC as we call it in New Braunfels. The initial wave of businesses needing expert advice and funding counseling really overloaded the Spark SBC staff – then the Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was added to the list of resources – and really sent the Spark SBC staff beyond what they had personnel for.
New Braunfels Economic Development Corporation (NBEDC, AKA 4B Board) had already had a couple of discussions about what is needed and how can we (legally) help our local businesses; the Spark SBC was the answer to a couple of the questions. However, they were not staffed to handle the customer load. NBEDC inquired about how they could assist with staffing of the center, and the staff's resounding response was YES – we can use another person. The NBEDC Board approved the additional funding which led to onboarding a part-time employee – but not just any employee, an employee that had recently retired from the Small Business Development Center and knew the protocol to assist these businesses.
With the action of NBEDC adding funding for staffing at the Spark SBC, the workload at the center has been reduced and the small business wait times have been decreased. This immediate action shows that your NBEDC Board has the agility to jump in and ensure that the resources to support local business are available when needed.