Center for Family Business is Booming

A portrait of Mary Beth Wilcher, director of the Center for Family Business at Penn State Behrend.

Mary Beth Wilcher is the director of the Center for Family Business at Penn State Behrend.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Research shows that family businesses face unique challenges, especially when it comes to succession planning. According to, about 40 percent of U.S. family-owned businesses transition into second-generation businesses, approximately 13 percent are passed down successfully to a third generation, while just 3 percent survive to a fourth or beyond.

What is the difference maker when it comes to longevity? Experts have found that supportive resources can have a significant impact, which is why Penn State Behrend launched a new outreach program—the Center for Family Business.

“There are so many incredible family-run businesses in this region, and they are the lifeblood, particularly in a lot of smaller towns,” explained Dr. Greg Filbeck, director of the Black School of Business. “However, you see with many companies that where there’s not a succession plan in place, they sell off to an outside entity.
Often, they end up dismantling the best pieces of the business, and the company ships off somewhere, leaving communities in an economic hole.”

“Through the center,” Filbeck said, “we’re trying to leverage the wealth of knowledge that exists with these leaders to create a series of programs to help family businesses and the community, too.”

In January, the center appointed its first director, Mary Beth Wilcher, who brings extensive experience in the financial field to the mission of providing resources to support businesses. The center has a fifteen-member advisory board of leaders, representing diverse family businesses from throughout the region. Upcoming
events include:

  • July 26—Hiring and Keeping the Right Employees
  • August 16—Leadership Development Program Information Session
  • October 3, 10, 17 and 24—Four-part Leadership Development Program
  • November 16—Strategic Planning and Operational Benchmarks

Additional sessions will be announced for August, September, and October. Visit the Center for Family Business website for additional information on events or membership.