Some have used the economic downturn to create or grow small businesses. In the Garden State, those proprietors can seek help from New Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC). CEO and Executive Director Brenda Hopper sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the organization’s mission and how it helps small business owners throughout the state.
Hopper said NJSBDC helps small businesses grow and survive. “We advocate for small businesses. We want to make sure that the tax rate and the business taxes are within the right realm. We don’t want them paying too much,” she said. “I go to Trenton along with my staff to let the governor know that we’re here and we want to make sure businesses stay in New Jersey.”
NJSBDC is a public/private educational partnership. “We were created by an act of Congress some 30 years ago. New Jersey was one of the first states to have an SBDC, which is an acronym. We’re hosted by educational institutions,” she said, adding that there are 11 regional centers throughout the state at educational institutions.
Hopper said the NJSBDC can help small businesses get financing. She said it’s difficult because many banks are now stricter with loan requirements, though she believes the process has been easing up slowly. “We work with big banks, credit unions, community banks,” she said. “So we try to find the right financing for the business.”
While Hopper said she was somewhat surprised that New Jersey is outpacing Pennsylvania and New York when it comes to small business growth. “We do have resources here in New Jersey, but when I look at our program, which is a national program — so there’s an SBDC in Pennsylvania and New York — in terms of the investment the state makes into the program, we’re really far down compared to Pennsylvania and New York, Georgia and some of the other states.”
Hopper said she would like to see more help go to small businesses, those who have 20 or fewer employees and those who have 50 to 500 employees, instead of the larger corporations like Amazon.com. She said New Jersey has about 200,000 small businesses with employees and another 500,000 that sole proprietors. She explained that any of those business owners can ask for help from the NJSBDC.
“Any small businesses can come to us for financing, business planning, strategic planning, how to market their company and to get that financing,” Hopper said.