Alphonso David and his team of business advocates are coming to a neighborhood near you.
In an effort to remove the barriers to success and educate small business owners on the free programs and incentives the state provides, Alphonso has been and will continue to host in-person workshops throughout the state for small business owners and entrepreneurs who he said are likely unaware of the help that is available to them.
“We’re bringing that forum to them,” said Alphonso, a deputy secretary in Gov. Cuomo’s office. “We wanted to make sure those small businesses were aware of all the resources that the state has, free of charge. We want to support them.”
Back in March, Cuomo announced this series of workshops that would be held in 10 regions throughout the state, designed to help small business owners start and grow their business. It’s vital that these people have a comprehensive overview of the state’s rules, regulations and processes, Alphonso said, especially considering that 97 percent of companies in New York are categorized as small businesses.
A former small business owner himself, Alphonso can relate with small business owners whose primary obstacle to success is often working with limited resources. Sometimes, these owners have never run a business before, and they all put in a lot of hours, so they don’t have extra time to dedicate to learning the ins and outs of state procedures. As such, the state’s free resources are invaluable.
“There is a need for this information,” Alphonso said. “It has been heartening to know that we’re providing information that is needed. It’s been an illuminating process for us.”
Alphonso and his team work with local Small Business Development Centers, EPA centers, colleges and universities to ensure the information they provide is funneled through, and supported by, the local channels. While some business owners they’ve met with were aware of some of the financial assistance available through state programs, most were unaware of the free technical assistance — programs that cover how to create a business plan, how to identify employees, how to create an industry-specific plan and how to expand to other parts of the state.
There is more than $100 million in state financial assistance available for small business owners in a variety of areas, with many new programs that were put in place over the last year. Among these new programs are the Capital Access Program, providing $18.4 million in matching funds to increase small business lending; the Revolving Loan fund, $50 million targeted to minority and women business owners who have difficulty accessing credit; the Surety Bond assistance program, providing credit assistance and technical support to small business owners interested in obtaining government contracts in the construction field; and the Innovate NY fund, a $25 million equity fund to support high-growth local businesses in emerging markets and technology.
The state’s ongoing focus is to remove all the barriers to economic growth, Alphonso said. Part of that process is the workshops and speaking to small business owners about their issues and concerns.
But the state’s leadership group knows that one-time workshops and reminders won’t be enough.
“I see it more as a beginning of a process,” Alphonso said. “We understand that we may have to do this multiple times, because we are trying to reach people who are very busy and have limited resources.”
Additional workshops and a business summit are possibilities for the future. In July, the governor announced the launch of a new website, www.thenewny.com, which will work hand-in-hand with www.nyfirst.ny.gov to provide small business owners with information they need to grow and prosper on their own, or show them where to find personalized help if they need it.
The focus of these initiatives is to create a sustainable infrastructure in New York, where people create businesses here, grow here and remain here.
“Our ultimate goal is to generate support for economic growth in this state,” Alphonso said. “We want to make sure that we create an infrastructure where it is easier to conduct business in the state.
“If businesses grow, then the economy grows as well. If they hire individuals to work in their businesses, then we are incentivizing growth in the state.”