Mason’s Jody Keenan honored for providing pandemic assistance to Virginia small businesses

Jody Keenan received this year's VEDA President’s Award for her exemplary leadership during the pandemic. Photo provided

A state economic group has recognized the George Mason University-based Virginia Small Business Development Center Network for its crucial advising and assistance of the commonwealth’s business community during a financially challenging year.

The Virginia Economic Developers Association (VEDA) last month presented its annual President’s Award to Virginia SBDC State Director Jody Keenan, citing her “skillful, steadfast and exemplary leadership…responding to the critical needs of small businesses and economic developers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The SBDC Network, with 26 offices around the state, has provided immediate and ongoing support to community entrepreneurs, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, trade associations and other entities seeking information about disaster relief and how to adjust their business strategies during the economic recovery.

Early in the year, the SBDC Network quickly scaled up its remote capacity to offer more consultations, webinars, training opportunities, and online tools and resources to a concerned state business community.

VEDA President Jim Noel made the award announcement at the organization’s November meeting. The VEDA comprises hundreds of professionals from around the state in economic development and related fields.

“SBDC staff really were early responders when the crisis hit,” Keenan said, “helping businesses get the information they needed and the resources and assistance to apply for the disaster financing and develop new marketing and business plans to respond to their rapidly changing environments. It was a real honor to accept the VEDA President’s Award on behalf of the Small Business Development Center staff across Virginia.”

In 2020, the SBDC has assisted 9,500 businesses, resulting in $86 million in new capital received and 1,167 loans obtained. This year, there were nearly 12,000 unique visitors to

Although the award cites the SBDC’s work in 2020, the honor also is an indication of the network’s cumulative impact. Based at Mason since 2003, the SBDC is locally connected in communities around the state, including at three other universities and six community colleges.

“These relationships absolutely have been built up over the years,” Keenan said. “We were able to respond quickly and confidently because of our long-term relationships around the commonwealth.”