Brendan McGrath writes about our center for the Times of Trenton/NJ.com. Check out the article below as originally published on NJ.com.
A local chapter of a national nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs get ahead, is attempting to expand its reach in Mercer County with new partnerships in Trenton and Lawrence.
The American Small Business Development Center branch at The College of New Jersey provides independent business counseling and group workshops to about 2,000 English- and Spanish-speaking business people each year in Mercer County, said Lorraine Allen, the center’s regional director.
Many of the services provided by the ASBDC are free, because the center receives funding from a variety of sources, including TCNJ, Mercer County and the state.
“We know the economics of Mercer County and New Jersey are going to be dependent on small and midsized companies,” county Executive Brian Hughes said. “We’re gong to help them get going.”
The county funds the program to the tune of $15,000 per year for each of the English- and Spanish-speaking programs, said Elizabeth Muoio, the county director of economic development and sustainability.
“When you’re a small business or entrepreneur, your finances are going to be a big roadblock to your success, initially,” Muoio said.
The ASBDC helps companies overcome these impediments by counseling them on business practices such as marketing, human resource management and accounting, Allen said. The center brings in experts in different fields to help each business overcome its particular problem, she said.
“We can’t be everything to everyone, but we certainly have some resources,” Allen said.
Beginning this month, a new partnership with the Living Hope Empowerment Center on Farragut Avenue will bring the ASBDC’s services closer to Trenton in general, and the city’s Hispanic community in particular, Muoio said.
The ASBDC until now generally met with clients either at its office at TCNJ in Ewing or at the small business’s location, Allen said. Now, Trenton businesses will be able to take advantage of the center’s services without having to leave town, she said.
The county, which established a program designed specifically to reach out to Latino businesses in 2005, will benefit as more local businesses use the ASBDC’s services, Hughes said.
“Latino members of the community trying to start a new business will be a key ingredient of our economic makeup here in Mercer County,” Hughes said.
At the same time, the ASBDC is partnering with Lawrenceville Main Street to make its services more visible in Lawrence, so that small businesses there know what is available to them. Vince Scozzari, president of the board for Lawrenceville Main Street, said that they made the connection as the group was looking for opportunities that would be of interest to local businesses.
This fall, Lawrenceville Main Street will host an open house to introduce businesses in town to the SBDC, he said.
“It brings resources to small businesses that they probably wouldn’t typically be able to go out in the market an engage on their own,” Scozzari said.
Allen encouraged more community groups in the county to try to establish this type of connection. “The businesses are entitled to this benefit, and we have found it can make a real difference between stalling and moving forward,” she said in a recent statement.