A draft bill that one legislator said will "help small business in a big way" was endorsed Wednesday by a legislative committee.

The bill would create the Utah Business Resource Center program, with the centers throughout the state serving as one-stop shops for helping businesses find the resources and help they need to succeed. It was passed out favorably by the Business and Labor Interim Committee.

House Majority Leader David Clark, R-Santa Clara, said Utah has a great entrepreneurial spirit but many start-up businesses nonetheless fail — something the centers program can alleviate.

The Governor's Office of Economic Development would establish the program, with the centers helping businesses with support, education, sources of funding, training and networking.

Although it would have a $2.5 million appropriation for the upcoming fiscal year, the program would require one-on-one matching funds for participating entities and would rely on existing resources, including the use of existing facilities. The centers would involve state, local and federal agencies and institutions and private entities.

"We have the tools. We do not have the quarterback to coordinate, and that's what this is attempting to do," Clark said. GOED would serve that role and be "where one focus point is," he said.

GOED's executive director would appoint a seven-member board to oversee the program, and that board also could create an advisory board.

Clark said businesses along the Wasatch Front have better access to information than those in outlying areas. In addition to centers in outlying areas, the BRC program also would establish a "virtual" access online to allow participants to get answers to their questions through e-mail or chat environments.

Bill supporters said in October that the BRC program could help curb Utah's business-failure rate, which currently has 65 percent to 70 percent of start-ups going under within their first five years.

"This is an opportunity for public and government interface with education and private (entities), and a partnership is being established here," Clark said. "It's in all of our best interests to see that these types of businesses have the resources in order for them to succeed ...."

Rep. Stephen Clark, R-Provo, committee co-chairman, BRC Organizational Board member and director of the Small Business Development Center at Utah Valley State College, backed the bill.

"This is really an ideal piece of legislation for assisting small business in its growth," Stephen Clark said. "And while the concept is good, the real uphill battle is the funding, and that certainly is what we're going to have to go to work on. ... It's a good (concept). It's going to help small business in a big way."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com