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New director at Lehigh looks to raise profile of small-business assistance program

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The Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center network hired James Fischer as the director of the Lehigh University SBDC.

As a function of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the mission of the Lehigh University SBDC is to assist local entrepreneurs and small businesses so they can establish themselves and acquire funding to get started, Fischer said.

“I would consider us to be the Lehigh Valley’s best-kept secret,” Fischer said. “Part of my goal here is to try to change that. I just want to raise the profile, let the community at large know we exist and what we do.”

The Pennsylvania SBDC network is a public/private partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development and 18 universities and colleges across the state.

The SBA defines small businesses as those having 500 or fewer employees, Fischer said.

“We do a significant amount of work with mid-sized corporations on a regular basis,” Fischer said. “We are engaged in a lot more than what most people would think of as small businesses.”

Fischer has more than 35 years of experience in real estate and general business law, including global experience in assets, leasing and transaction management.

He will be responsible for delivering SBDC programs and services to small-business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the center’s service area of Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties.

In addition to providing direct business development support and managing a staff of six, Fischer will be an advocate for business development, expansion and retention in the region.

Fischer said the program has consultants in finance, government contracts and international business who can help small businesses grow, offering services at no cost.

The Lehigh University SBDC, which will mark its 40th year next year, works with for-profit companies only and is wholly-funded by grants from the federal and state government, he added.

Before joining Lehigh University SBDC, Fischer was a senior fellow and general counsel for the Social Enterprise Institute at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County. As a research and development technical adviser at Elizabethtown, Fischer’s background in social impact investments and business advisory services helped develop and foster the growth of community projects and social enterprises.

Fischer said what small businesses often need most is to create a balance between organizational input and a realistic vision of what it takes to become a successful business. The other half of that equation is the ability to have money to develop that vision, which can be from a small-business development loan, he said.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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