The Santa Monica College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has earned three coveted awards for 2010, including “Best Overall Center Performance,” from the Los Angeles Regional SBDC Network.

The center’s other two awards include “Highest Number of New Business Starts” by assisting in the creation of 49 new businesses in the local community in 2010, and the “Highest Extended Engagement Clients” for service to clients on a sustained basis for more than a year.

Additionally, the college’s SBDC was recognized as the first center in the history of the Los Angeles Regional Network to meet and exceed all of the core goals mandated by the program’s funding source, the Small Business Administration (SBA), an SMC spokesman said.

“To achieve the recognition of ‘Best Performance’ for 2010 is a great honor, as it recognizes the efforts of the entire center staff,” said SMC SBDC Director Michelle King.

“More importantly, it reflects how the center has been able to help impact the community as a whole. Information is powerful, and as our clients use the information they have obtained from their experience with SBDC, the true impact will be immeasurable.”

The college’s business center counseled 797 distinct clients last year in its service area, which includes Santa Monica, Venice, West Los Angeles, Culver City, Malibu, Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles International Airport region. Started in 2007, the center offers free, one-on-one business counseling and low-cost training seminars that are considered important to start-up and established businesses. Topics of seminars range from business plans to corporate formation to business financing.

In all, the SBDC offered counseling and training services to more than 1,700 entrepreneurs in 2010, the SMC spokesman said.

Center officials cite many success stories, including that of Dana Balas, who had no business experience when she came to the center in 2007 and, with the center’s guidance, qualified for an SBA-backed loan. Her business, Menchi’s Yogurt, is growing continuously and now has 43 franchised locations throughout the United States.

The Los Angeles Regional SBDC Network covers Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.