Alex Glasser connected with some of the contacts he needs to grow his business at a Small Business Assistance Workshop on Thursday. Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) organized the seminar to help small business owners find the free resources that can help them expand their business or buy more equipment.
Glasser, a New City native, just started a guitar and stringed instrument repair business in Orangeburg. A trained luthier, Glasser recently relocated from California where he worked in a guitar repair shop for 10 years and for some of the best known guitar builders on the West Coast. He believes lots of opportunity exists for Iron Horse Instruments but acknowledges he needs guidance in building a business.
“What was good for me was we’re so close to New York City,” he said, adding he plans to provide the service for guitar and ukulele owners in Rockland, Westchester and New Jersey. “There’s a massive lack of quality people that do this.”
He was one of about 30 people who attended the afternoon outreach program at Clarkstown Town Hall along with state and local representatives of business development organizations and area financial institutions. Experts were on hand not only to let business owners they could guide them through development of business plans and applying for loans or grants but to explain how to get a contract with the federal government.
Lowey said small business owners want some certainty about tax codes before they are willing to invest in new equipment.
“I supported the stimulus because in the short run, I think this is very important,” said Lowey. “We need to have long term reform.”
U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Jorge Silva-Puras introduced one of his organization’s newest tools. When small business owners go to www.sba.gov, they enter their zip code and can review a map showing all the nearby resources.
“97 percent of all businesses in New York State qualify as a small business,” Silva-Puras said. “Small business creates two out of every three net jobs America.
The definition of a small business depends upon its sector but in general it is one with less than 500 employees or under $7 million in profits.
Michael Di Tullo of the Rockland Economic Development Corporation spoke about the regional opportunities for business growth.
“Remember that when large business come into the county, they do business with small business,” he said.
He also spoke about the challenges that entrepreneurs are up against.
“Be prepared to be resilient and have a lot of courage,” he said. “All the government help in the world is not going to help you unless you have that entrepreneurial attitude.”
Silva-Puras spoke to the attendees about taking advantage of counseling, contracting and capital access.
“If you survive the first five years of business that is the most difficult time,” he said, adding that many businesses that continue operating have sought counseling assistance.
He suggested small business owners learn more about contracting with the federal government. The SBA was created with the mandate to help small business get 23 percent of the federal government $500 billion in purchases.
“There is no entity in the world that purchases more than the U.S. Government, Silva-Puras said.
Another service of the SBA is assisting business owners by connecting them with lenders and micro lenders. The SBA does not loan capital directly but guarantees up to 85 percent of a loan.
Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato said his office helps people with materials and guidance at the local level.
“As much as we think we promote, there is a lot of information people don’t know about,” he said.
Participating organizations included the NY Business Development Corporation located in Albany, NYS Small Business Development Center based at Rockland Community College, Community Capital Resources of Hawthorne, ACCES-VR of White Plains, U.S. Department of Commerce, SCORE, Provident Bank of Montebello, TD Bank of New City and others.