Lindsey Grant, minister of international trade, industry, commerce and consumer affairs, met with leaders of Antigua and Barbuda as well as members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to sign on to a project advancing the transfer of the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) to the federation.

An SBDC’s mission is to promote growth, innovation, productivity and revenue for small businesses through improvements to their business administration, according to OAS’s website on the project. The establishment is already widely used across the United States, with more than 750,000 clients. Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica and Saint Lucia became the first Caribbean partners of the project in 2014.

The SBDC’s goal is long-term, sustainable growth in small businesses across the countries it has been established in. It hopes to do that by promising technical assistance, group training and market research unique to each countries needs. The advanced model and needs for a program like this suggest the benefits of such an establishment may not be felt immediately.

The program has been developed into five stages: start-up, technology transfer, network implementation, consolidation and internalization. This information was announced originally in June 2014, when the program first reached some Caribbean states.

First, members of the organization reach out to both the government and private sector to establish in-country consultations and visits to locations in the United States where the program has already been running for years. This step is to understand the model and how it affects businesses in any certain area. They then transfer control and understanding of economic impact of the SBDC methodology to professionals within the federation.

The next action the program will involve establishing standards within the host nation in order to accurately track the impact of the organization. Finally, the program hopes to establish physical centers to respond to an ever-changing market and open up trade opportunities that unite SBDC clients with each other across all countries involved.

“The signing of this memorandum of understanding today is not simply a signature, or a ticking of a box to show completion of a task,” Grant said at the signing ceremony. “Rather it is the first step in the serious business of not only improving the economies of our countries, but also engaging in the most satisfying activity of enhancing the lives of all the people whom we serve.”

St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda signing onto the project signal an advancement in the OAS SBDC program throughout the Caribbean. According to OAS information, a SBDC client can expect a sales growth 13.6 percent higher than the average business.