The idea is for FEMA to increase the use of small business development center personnel in providing education, training, and response assistance for emergency preparedness and response to the small business community on a local and regional level. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network is a nationwide network of universities and non-profit groups that provide consulting to small and medium sized businesses at no fee to the clients. Funding is through the associated university and the SBA in most cases. Many states, such as Florida and Louisiana, have actively pursued this type of consulting for their clients and still do.
SBDC consultants are considered faculty of the university in most cases, many times under the Public Service and Outreach division (somewhat cousins to the Cooperative Extension Service). Most consultants come from a private sector and/or educational background and have a strong reach and understanding of the local small business environment. Since the network is already in place, is nationwide and in the U.S. Territories, and would require limited new funding (possibly other than some training) this type of initiative would be able to leverage existing resources and personnel and could expand on programs already underway (through a more formalized association with FEMA and the SBA along the lines of preparedness and response).