NH Division of Economic Development
YouTube Facebook Twitter Twitter
Why New Hampshire Move Start Grow About Us


    Subscribe Here to Receive Blog Updates        

5 Questions with Mary Collins of NH SBDC

There’s no way to  sum up adequately, in such a short space, the impact a person like Mary Collins has had on the state of New Hampshire. At the end of May, Mary retired after more than two decades of service with the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, working tirelessly to improve the fortunes of thousands of small businesses, as well as the overall economy of the Granite State.

On the occasion of her retirement, we asked Mary a few questions – five, to be precise – about her time with the SBDC, the business environment in New Hampshire, and whether she’ll still be involved in the inner business workings of the state she’ll continue to call home.

 
1. You were with the SBDC for 22 years and served as state director for 18 of them. As you look back, what are two or three things you’ll remember most fondly about your time there?

– Engagement, and the long lasting friendships that I made with colleagues, clients, stakeholders, students and staff throughout New Hampshire and the US. As SBDC state director, I covered the entire state, served on numerous boards in NH and also had the opportunity to serve on the national Association of Small Business Development Center’s board, as well as the national accreditation team. This job has provided me the opportunity to meet and engage with wonderful people throughout New Hampshire and in all states throughout the US. Each time I drove to the North Country and passed through the notch, or headed to Keene or Portsmouth, I would think how fortunate I was to have a job that allowed me to take in the beauty of New Hampshire while working!

– Legislative Activity. SBDC is a cooperative program with the US SBA, the Department of Resources and Economic Development, the University of New Hampshire and the private sector – maintaining our federal, state and local funding is a key component of this job – and I have to admit I am a political junkie and have loved this part of my job – I love going to Washington, DC and to the Hill. Yes, we have had our critical moments such as sequestration and natural and economic disasters affecting our small businesses, however during the past 18 years I’ve been fortunate to have worked closely with our entire federal delegation and its amazing staffers, as well as several New Hampshire governors and many state legislators. This can only happen in a small state like New Hampshire – my colleagues in the large states envy our access to top federal and state leadership.

– The ability to be creative! Each day I could wake up and think of some activity or process that might assist a small business client or our staff and we could actually make it happen. The job is truly entrepreneurial and only possible with a great supportive staff, which I have so appreciated.

 
2. A lot has changed in the world of small business over the last two decades. But what would you say has stayed the same (and still remains important) for small businesses today?

Building a sustainable business requires a team effort – there are numerous federal and state programs to assist small businesses, yet entrepreneurs are so busy with day-to-day survival that they are not always aware, or do not have the time to search out these programs. A savvy entrepreneur will utilize all resources available to them as they build a strong foundation for their business – the payoff is measurable. What has also stayed the same is the need to have access to capital!

 
3. Your efforts to support business in the state go far beyond the SBDC. How has your work with the New Hampshire High Tech Council and EPSCOR (to name just two) also helped the SBDC with its own mission?

My philosophy has always been that small businesses need a  voice at the table.  The reality is that they do not have the time to attend outside meetings, nor are they always aware of critical opportunities. During the 13 years that I served on the board of the NHHTC, I was able to match the needs of SBDC clients with opportunities I learned about through NHHTC member companies, or those with whom we collaborated, such as legislators, entrepreneurs, academia etc.

For example, a SBDC client who needed an engineering lab to further develop his product was approached by a Massachusetts university, but he wanted to stay in New Hampshire. We were able to match that client with a lab at UNH.

The same has been true with my participation on the EPSCOR board, which has representation from Dartmouth, UNH, the state, and the private sector – all directed at grant opportunities for entrepreneurs in New Hampshire. The SBDC provides assistance to all aspects of running a small business – we can be our clients’ voices at the state, federal, and local level through our engagement in specific boards and committees.

 
4. What’s next for you? Are you retiring completely, moving onto another venture, or just taking time to see what will happen next?

I had been thinking about retirement for the last couple years, but I always found something else that I wanted/needed to do in my career. My husband retired four years ago and had been bugging me to join him. What finally convinced me was having time available for our long-planned trips, as well as travel to see my children and grandchildren. My son and his family are in Florida; my daughter is in Las Angeles  and my four siblings and their families are located throughout the US. We have lived in New Hampshire since 1972 and we’re not leaving! We are selling our home of 38 years in Mont Vernon and are moving to Wolfeboro where we purchased a retirement home; winter months will be in Florida.

I love being active in New Hampshire and am taking time to consider my next venture. Last fall, I was appointed by Gov. Hassan to serve on the New Hampshire Judicial Conduct Committee and look forward to continuing with that committee. In the meantime, my garden needs attention and summer in Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee with good friends at our yacht club seems very attractive!

 
5. You stayed on as an adviser to your successor, Rich Grogan, as he settled into the state director position. What would you say are his strongest qualities?

I was extremely fortunate to have excellent advice on doing a transition plan, as I can’t imagine how one walks out the door on a Friday after 18 years in this position and is completely retired. The state director’s job is one that consumes your mind day and night. The transition was carefully thought out and approved by UNH and the SBA. A search committee was established and a national search for the new state director conducted.

Rich Grogan, our Keene regional manager, was selected for the position and officially took over April 6. In the last two months, we have communicated on all issues as they surface – the job is complex with many stakeholders and funders, including federal grants, state contracts and a staff located statewide. The transition has been extremely smooth and Rich is amazing. His grasp of the global picture and the needs of small businesses is excellent. He hit the ground running and had used his time effectively by engaging our existing network and board while forging new relationships for the SBDC. He has a great sense of humor and is well-respected by staff and colleagues.

I am very fortunate to be leaving a program I care so deeply about in the hands of someone who cares about sustaining and growing the NH SBDC. Rich knows that I am just an email or phone call away, which insures continuity for our clients, staff and partners.

Tags: , ,