“Extension’s crown jewel” — University of Missouri Extension Business Development Program celebrates 50th anniversary
It all started with Sputnik.
Sputnik — the word means “satellite” in Russian — was launched into orbit in October 1957 by the USSR, profoundly shocking America. The beach ball-sized sphere was visible to the naked eye, and its radio signal could be picked up across the U.S. How could the Soviets have leaped so far ahead? Maybe the U.S. was destined, in Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s words, to be buried.
The resulting panic and the need to catch up in the late 50s and 60s led to a boom in the sciences, education and even the arts. We did more than that, of course, landing on the moon in 1969 and effectively burying the USSR just 21 years later.
Among these efforts was U.S. Code Title 15, Chapter 37, § 1351, 1965, better known as the State Technical Services Act of 1965, which read in part:
“Congress finds that wider diffusion and more effective application of science and technology in business, commerce and industry are essential to the growth of the economy, to higher levels of employment and to the competitive position of United States products in world markets. The Congress also finds that the benefits of federally financed research, as well as other research, must be placed more effectively in the hands of American business, commerce and industrial establishments.”
The law goes on to say that cooperation among universities, communities and industries might be the best way to provide “technical services designed to encourage a more effective application of science and technology to both new and established business, commerce and industrial establishments.”
That was the genesis of the University of Missouri Extension Business, Industry and Labor Extension Program, known today as the Business Development Program (BDP), founded in 1966.
Dr. John Sutherland, an MU professor of chemical engineering with extensive private sector experience including as a Texaco refinery engineer and founder and president of Sutherland-Becker Laboratories, was named its first director. MU and Extension had high hopes for the program from the start.
“It was the heyday of Great Society programs,” former University of Missouri President and Extension Dean C. Brice Ratchford, who hired Sutherland, said. “The State Technical Services Act of 1965 promised to do for business and industry what Smith-Lever had done for agriculture.” Ratchford served in various leadership roles in Extension from 1959 to 1970 and as UM president from 1970 to 1976.
Ratchford’s remarks underscored the urgent importance of the new program to the state, MU and Extension. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established a system of cooperative extension services connected to each land-grant university and was the birth of extension programs nationwide. Great Society was President Johnson’s response to the challenges of the 1960s, which included an expansion of voting rights, a war on poverty and the creation of Medicare.
The original purpose of the program, colloquially known as Business and Industry (B&I), was to provide technical assistance to manufacturing firms. The first B&I specialists were chemical engineers. The rest of Extension didn’t know what to make of its new business and industry colleagues.
“They called us ‘the exotics’ in those early days,” said Dr. Tom Henderson, B&I director from 1982 to 1989 and former vice provost and director for MU Extension. “We were just so different from everyone else.”
But “different” meant better to an increasing number of Missouri firms. Other land grant universities took note of these exotics and realized that business assistance should be a core mission for extension programs nationwide. So did several federal agencies.
In May 1976, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) enhanced the 1965 legislation by announcing a new University Business Development Center (UBDC) program — a “bold new proposal” in the words of a contemporary SBA announcement. It may have been bold for much for the nation, perhaps, but not for the UM system or B&I. In a decade, B&I had broadened its staffing from engineering experts to specialists in general business and industry, small business development and community economic development.
The SBA implemented the UBDC program by funding a pilot initiative in California in December 1976. Seven more universities received funding in early 1977, including the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). The SBA selected schools that were already providing vital business services to their communities.
Sutherland was vigilant in seeking other opportunities to expand the B&I program. For instance, in the mid 1970s, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) offered funding for centers at colleges and universities to help create and retain jobs and stimulate industrial and commercial growth in the nation’s distressed rural and urban communities. Sutherland added an EDA center to B&I in 1978.
From 1980 to 1982, UMSL served as the state office of the UBDC. This was the genesis of the BDP’s Small Business & Technology Development Centers (SBTDC).
When Henderson was named B&I director, he too was alert to new legislation and opportunities to expand the university’s and Extension’s ability to help Missourians.
Another such opportunity arose in 1985, when Congress authorized the Procurement Technical Assistance Program to expand the number of businesses capable of participating in the government marketplace. Administered by the Department of Defense, Defense Logistics Agency, the program provided funds to establish Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) to help businesses — including small, minority, veteran, disadvantaged and women owned firms — obtain federal, state and local government contracts.
MO PTAC was added to the B&I program in 1992 and helmed by Morris Hudson, an Air Force veteran with 30 years of experience in government contracting. Hudson also served as president of the national Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. He directed MO PTAC until 2015, when Jason Porch, also a former president of the national association and director of the Kansas PTAC, became director.
In 1987, MU Extension assumed leadership for the entire SBDC program and moved it to the MU campus with Max Summers as state director. Summers had previously served as director of the Northwest Missouri State University SBDC, one of the university partners hosting a regional center at the time.
Then in August 1988, President Reagan signed Public Law 100-418, an omnibus trade bill entitled “A Bill to Enhance the Competitiveness of American Industry and for Other Purposes.” This was the genesis of the Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (TAAC), added to the B&I portfolio in 1988.
Sponsored by EDA, this cost-sharing program covers 50 percent of a company’s expenses, including consultants, to implement projects to improve American manufacturer’s competitiveness. Drs. Jim Drexler and Paul Schmidt were TAAC’s first directors; Donna Leonard, first hired by B&I in 1990 as an undergraduate student, now fills that role.
Steve Wyatt, today MU associate vice chancellor and vice provost for economic development, was hired as an SBDC counselor during the SBDC’s early years. He became the Missouri SBDC associate director in 1989, providing leadership for both the SBDC and PTAC until Hudson became MO PTAC director.
Max Summers, who spent 15 years as a bank CEO, then became director of the renamed Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers. He served UM for 25 years, 21 of them, from 1989 to 2009, as SBTDC state director.
Also in 1989, the program received a federal appropriation to serve dislocated farm families hurt by the farm crisis of the 1980s. This program, called the Career Options Program for Missouri Farm Families, continued into the mid-1990s, when it refocused its efforts to help workers dislocated from Missouri businesses. It continues today within the Workforce Program under the BDP umbrella.
Henderson and B&I also secured the Household Hazardous Waste and Market Development Program in 1991. Funded by the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority, this quasi-governmental environmental finance agency was administratively assigned to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The program expanded its mission as the Office of Waste Management to deliver waste reduction and environmental compliance training to business and industry in partnership with DNR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2006, it refocused again to provide College of Engineering interns to assist companies with energy conservation and waste remediation. It continues today as the Pollution Prevention Intern Program under the direction of Paul Bateson, a BDP counselor with significant private sector, technology and manufacturing experience.
In 1999, Dr. John Sheffield, an analytical and experimental engineer and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at what is now the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla became B&I’s leader. Wyatt assumed that role in 2001.
In 2005, the MO SBDC added the “T” to its name through a rigorous process that demonstrated to SBA and the national Association of Small Business Development Centers that the MU program had the capability and expertise to help researchers and entrepreneurs transfer technology from the university to the marketplace. At the time, the Missouri program was one of only five programs nationwide awarded the technology designation, a remarkable achievement.
Summers became interim BDP director in 2010 and was then succeeded by the current BDP director, Steve Devlin, in 2013. Before joining the BDP, Devlin played a variety of roles at the Iowa State University Center for Industrial Research and Service, where he led the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, among other industrial and technology efforts.
In 2014, Mary Paulsell, who also serves as BDP director of communications, assumed leadership of the Workforce Program, which included the Missouri Employment and Training Program serving food stamp recipients seeking training and job preparedness services. The program also now includes a partnership with the University of Wisconsin on the Midwest Transportation Workforce Center and a partnership with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development entitled ApprenticeshipUSA, a statewide effort to expand the use of apprenticeships in workforce development. More recently, the BDP Workforce Program assumed management of the MU College of Engineering’s Career Services initiatives.
Today, BDP leadership is housed administratively and physically in Lafferre Hall in the MU College of Engineering. Devlin holds a joint appointment as BDP director and assistant dean for industrial engagement and entrepreneurship in the college, reinforcing the program’s role as a bridge between business and industry and research and academics.
Devlin oversees a statewide network offering a broad menu of programs and services:
MO SBTDC, Greg Tucker, state director. Tucker took over from Chris Bouchard in 2016. Over the course of more than 20 years, Bouchard, also an Air Force veteran, served as a B&I business consultant; and as associate director, interim director then director of the SBTDC. Tucker, himself a nearly 20-year BDP veteran, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of 14 SBTDC MU and contract centers located on most of Missouri’s public university campuses and eight business development specialists in MU Extension county offices. The SBTDC offers education and technical assistance in management, marketing, finance, international trade, HR, market research and strategic planning.
MO PTAC, Jason Porch, director, includes nine centers on university campuses and in MU Extension county offices. MO PTAC offers hands-on technical assistance to ensure that Missouri firms win their share of local, state and federal government contracts.
The Missouri Environmental Assistance Center, Paul Bateson, director, is housed on the MU campus and is home to the P2 Intern Program.
Mid-America TAAC, Donna (Leonard) Porch, director, is headquartered in Independence but serves manufacturers in four states — Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
The BDP Workforce Program, Mary Paulsell, director, is also housed on the MU campus and home to several initiatives assisting dislocated workers, employers, the transportation industry, individuals and companies seeking to expand workforce development opportunities.
“Each program has its own milestones and objectives,” said Wyatt. “Treated independently, they would never realize their full potential. But when aligned, with all the pieces put together, and with a strategic plan and the proper execution of that plan, you get the biggest bang.
“The magic we created was coming up with common measures. That’s where you get value and can look for new opportunities. When you bring these programs together, you can leverage their strengths for the good of all Missourians.
“It (the BDP) is unique in the country. I think it’s Extension’s crown jewel.”
Much has changed in 50 years, but the program, its past and present leaders believe the BDP has served its function extremely well.
“I think it’s the best integrated business assistance system in the entire U.S.,” says Henderson. “We’ve come so far! I have seen other such programs disintegrate over the years. But the BDP is still here.”
The writer would like to thank Chris Bouchard, Tom Henderson, Mary Paulsell, Max Summers and Steve Wyatt for sharing their time in recalling the story told here.
How effective is the BDP?
BDP leadership has maintained a laser focus on results since the program’s inception. In the latest analysis, based on data gathered from 2013 through 2015, the BDP helped Missouri firms:
• Create or retain 24,180 jobs
• Increase sales by $439 million
• Acquire new investments of $419.6 million
• Win government contracts of $1.4 billion.
This represents an almost unheard-of return on investment of $119 for every $1 invested and one job created for every $930 in total funding.