Is New Jersey on the Right Track? It Depends on How State Government Implements Policies That Are Small Business Friendly, Says NJSBDC Network Executives

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New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Headquarters released the network’s economic impact data, which documents strong support for small business owners/entrepreneurs. NJSBDC executives call for greater state investment to reach the national average.

NJ Small Business Development Centers - NJSBDC
The business experts at the NJSBDC network, which consists of 12 centers statewide, provided customized, personalized counseling for 5,351 small businesses and entrepreneurs totaling 22,699 counseling hours in 2013 alone.

There is strong support for small businesses and entrepreneurs, according to the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) economic impact data for 2013.

“It’s our report card,” says Brenda Hopper, chief executive officer and state director of the network which has been assisting small businesses for 35 years. “Our numbers show strong support for small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

The business experts at the NJSBDC network, which consists of 12 centers statewide provided customized counseling for 5,351 small businesses and entrepreneurs totaling 22,699 counseling hours in 2013 alone.

“That’s a lot of counseling for a small non-profit network like ours, especially with funding constraints due to congressional sequestration,” Deborah Smarth, chief operating officer and associate state director commented.

More than 54 percent of the client portfolio is established businesses. These businesses are at different stages of growth. Their revenue ranges span from typical start-up to several million dollars in sales. Despite the slow recovery, the network helped facilitate $74.9 million dollars in loans, equity and procurement contracts. The network had 644 clients who started a new business.

The comprehensive technical assistance includes business planning, strategic planning, E-Business presence, exporting, technology commercialization, marketing strategies, accounting and financial analysis and more. The NJSBDC network helped its clients create and save 16,479 jobs with 2,191 created jobs and 14,288 saved jobs.

In mid-December 2013, the non-partisan Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC) study, ranked New Jersey 49th of 50 states in terms of policy friendliness towards small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“A recent national association survey showed that NJSBDC is way below the national average of state funding at $1.1 million in state SBDC networks. Yet, this network is the boots on the ground for thousands of businesses which tap its services annually, including Sandy-hurt businesses,” Smarth stressed. The network also sponsored 666 training seminars at which 9,830 small business owners and individuals attended.

Hopper added, “Because NJSBDC is part of a national network of SBDCs across the country, it also has access to many national resources that are superbly utilized for the benefit of its clients, like a national clearinghouse which further assists SBDC business consultants and counselors to perfect details and research specifically geared to each client’s needs.”

“We’re grateful that our state funding has remained stable over the past 4 years,” Hopper continued. “But, it’s apparent that the ROI we give the state’s Treasury through small business clients’ development and growth far exceeds the level of investment made. It doesn’t have to be like that because the Legislature had funded the program at a million dollars several years ago.” About two decades ago NJSBDC received a state allocation of $500,000 prior to its increase to $1 million, but, is now at $250,000 despite the extra pressures of dealing with the influx of small businesses which had property damage and other economic losses due to the business shutdown as a result of Super Storm Sandy.

There’s no doubt that restored SBDC funding to its past levels would reap economic development benefits for the state.

“Our true hope for small businesses is that the state Legislature and Governor restore funding for the NJSBDC program,” said Smarth. Hopper said this would be a good symbol and message to the small businesses of the state that they do matter.

Smarth noted that hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to mid and large size companies through business incentive grants over the past few years and that compared to the cost per creating and saving a job through the SBDC program, the cost of incentive grants is much higher.

Smarth and Hopper said they hope that in this upcoming budget cycle, the Legislature will work with the Governor’s Office in making a greater investment in this jobs producing program. Federal monies under the past federal jobs stimulus act expired and special, one-time Sandy assistance funding will end in 2015, which means that resources to serve small businesses in New Jersey will be reduced further.

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