Richard Montanaro grew up with an inside view of small business, working in his family’s textile company in Calhoun, Ga.
His father, the late Richard Montanaro Sr., ran the company, Astro Dye Works, Inc. But he also volunteered in the local community as chairman of the Gordon County Hospital Board, the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce and Gordon County Commission.
That commitment to public service stuck with Montanaro throughout his career. When he left the UGA Small Business Development Center in June 2022, he made a significant pledge to the organization. Montanaro’s gift, which was matched by the UGA Foundation, established The Next Best Fund.
“I wanted to give back to the organization I admire and respect,” said Montanaro, who was the SBDC’s Rome area director for nearly a decade. “I just wanted to continue my dad’s legacy of service to the community.”
Montanaro designated his gift to be used by the SBDC staff to assess the needs of small community business owners in the state of Georgia. The resources may be used to work with local area teams at chambers of commerce, community and technical colleges, school districts, economic authorities, and/or other stakeholders to conduct region-specific need assessments targeted at grassroots businessmen and businesswomen in each area, according to the signed agreement.
“These assessments will help determine the SBDC classes best suited for each area, the SBDC trainings most critical to promoting growth, and/or other professional resources to guide the prosperity of each community,” the agreement states.
“I am a true believer in the mission of the SBDC,” Montanaro says. “All of our employees memorize the mission statement. They live it.”
Montanaro’s longtime connection to the northwest Georgia communities and his personality made him a valuable part of the SBDC, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, said Allan Adams, SBDC director.
“He has a lot of enthusiasm for helping people figure out what they need to know to make the most of an opportunity,” Adams said. “That kind of passionate consultant is what we need.”