SUNY Morrisville hosts Madison County Small Business Summit

The panel
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11 a.m.

It was an opportunity for small business enthusiasts to connect, learn and grow.

And for SUNY Morrisville, it was a chance to talk about the college’s exciting efforts which are preparing students to launch ventures and contribute to the local economy, including microcredentials and workforce programs, and a new Agribusiness Innovation and Training Center on the horizon.  

The event, the Madison County Small Business Summit, held Jan. 10 at SUNY Morrisville, covered a wide range of topics, including access to capital, regional resources for small businesses, accessing international markets, cybersecurity, government contracting, developing a workforce, marketing and also included a rural women in business roundtable.

Attendees had the opportunity to network and participate in one-on-one advising sessions with the Small Business Development Center, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Partnership for Community Development and Wise Women’s Business Center.

SUNY Morrisville staff members were among those who participated in an Entrepreneurship & Higher Education panel session, facilitated by Tony Contento, Dean of the School of Agriculture, Business & Technology at SUNY Morrisville, along with representatives from Colgate University and Madison/Onondaga BOCES.

During the panel, SUNY Morrisville staff members, Tara Shimer, workforce and partnership specialist, and Jamie Miller, director of the college’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) and Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), touted numerous ways the institution collaborates with local business and community organizations to bridge the gap between student skills and employer needs, as well as ways it provides research, training and academic opportunities to support entrepreneurial growth.

“For a person interested in entrepreneurship, a variety of skills can be found in our courses, degree programs, certificates and microcredential/workforce programs,” Shimer said.

Microcredentials are short, concentrated programs for specific skills that have pathways to degree programs.

“For a student who didn’t go right to college, they could get bite-sized skills that can lead to a degree or something they are interested in,” Shimer said of microcredentials.

Coming soon — the college plans to create an Agribusiness Innovation Training Center, thanks to a grant.

“This would foster innovation and entrepreneurship by empowering and inspiring individuals to start small businesses in this industry through access to business planning, market research, mentoring and networking opportunities,” Shimer said.  

“Our goals can only be obtained by working with industry and community organizations to understand the gap between skills and employers’ needs. We will be promoting upcoming events, programs and educational opportunities in the fall,” she said.

The college already offers numerous entrepreneurship and business-related courses, including an introduction to entrepreneurship, management consulting, innovation & venturing creation and a managing the family business class. Additionally, A First Year Experience (FYE) class provides students with tools to help them succeed in their first year of college.

“We can provide so many different opportunities and skillsets for students to be successful in their career after they graduate,” Miller said.

SUNY Morrisville alumna, Jody Hatch ’91, lauded such efforts.

“It is super exciting to hear about all of the opportunities students have today,” Hatch said. “These are ways we can spark them (students) to learn to be engaged.”

SUNY Morrisville ignited an exciting career for Hatch, who runs Mountain Management, a consulting business. The college left a lasting impression on Hatch and some of her siblings who also attended SUNY Morrisville.  

“Everything you learn — it all leads to something useful in the future,” said the math graduate of her SUNY Morrisville experience. Adding to her entrepreneurial panache, Hatch owned a business in which she earned a reputation as one of the youngest alpaca breeders in the Northeast.

During the panel discussion, Miller also noted the importance of internships and corporate sponsorships. “Our students are always looking for resources and opportunities to engage in networking events.”  

The business summit was sponsored by the Madison County Rural Equity Group, which comprises local, state, and national small business support agencies.

In addition to SUNY Morrisville, organizations involved in hosting this summit included The HUB – Partnership for Community Development, Onondaga Small Business Development Center, Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center, U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE Central NY, WISE Women’s Business Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, Colgate University, Cazenovia Community Development Association, Madison County IDA, and Madison County.