Editor's Note: This series takes a close-up look at the SBA's economic "clusters" designed to aid regional businesses.

Read the previous installments on Minnesota, the Carolinas, California and Mississippi.

Naval Base on the West Coast, San Diego has also become a haven for startups with a military focus.

The Small Business Administration decided to invest more than $1 million in the San Diego Advanced Defense Cluster as part of its pilot regional cluster initiative to promote small-business job growth.

In 2010 and 2011, the cluster received a total of $1.2 million in grants from the SBA, and is one of seven to be selected for additional funding beyond the two-year pilot, receiving another $385,000 in 2012, with an option to renew that grant for another four years.

Among other things, the San Diego-based cluster used the SBA funding to help small-business members craft and write proposals and introduce them to government program managers to win business from Uncle Sam and its primary contractors, says Lou Kelly, the program director.

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