University Economic Development Association


Award Category: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Project Site: Small Enterprise Economic Development (SEED)
Submitted By: New York State Small Business Development Center
Contact: William Brigham, 518.380.5076

Case Study


The project is the first of its kind – a university character-based micro-lending program, the Small Enterprise Economic Development (SEED). SEED includes key elements to address the specific needs of the underserved entrepreneurs including: active candidate recruitment, training and mentorship support for the candidates, and capital access (loans) using non-traditional criteria called character-based lending. Encouraging the formation and growth of small businesses and entrepreneurship is an important strategic goal of New York State, especially in low-income populations where traditional forms of capital are scarce and poor credit is a barrier to accessing capital. Such populations also typically lack access to business ownership training and strong mentorship support necessary to achieve business success.


SEED is a public-private partnership micro-lending program that combines the resources of the Empire State Development (ESD), University at Albany’s Schools of Social Welfare and Business, the Albany Regional Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”) and the State Employees Federal Credit Union (“SEFCU”) to address specific needs of underserved entrepreneurs. SEED has successfully provided access to capital this past year using criteria referred to as character-based lending. This non-traditional form of lending assesses an individual’s creditworthiness based on the careful observation of the personality of the entrepreneur in terms of relevant expert knowledge, entrepreneurship, good knowledge of the relevant market, the ability to handle crisis and the social context of the entrepreneur. The program was awarded a Tribecca Distructive Innovation Award.


Regional Economic Priority There is a high rate of return on investment as:

  • $825,000 will have been invested into the region and created or saved 92 jobs Program exceeded projected goals for Year 1.
  • $1,051 of state investment will have yielded one job under this proposal (based on 92 jobs from an investment of $96,700).
  • The SEED project requires no public funding for the loan fund as the $2.5M revolving loan fund is totally funded by private investment from SEFCU. In addition, SEFCU is providing the loan fund administration as an in-kind contribution.
  • The project leverages substantial University at Albany investment including faculty experts, student mentors, numerous student organizations, strong support from key top-level administrators.

Future Considerations

This model can be easily replicated with SBDC and educational institutions across the state in SEFCU’s regional operations including cities of Binghamton and Syracuse. The SEED project is a unique cross-sector and cross-disciplinary partnership involving UAlbany School of Social Welfare and School of Business and Albany Small Business Development Center, SEFCU and NYS Empire State Development

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Chattanooga on October 22, 2012. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.