Inner-Cities Are the Place to be When it Comes to Small Business
CEOs surveyed by the national nonprofit group Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) repeatedly cite inner-cities as locations that have been hospitable to their business growth and development, according to ICIC CEO, Steve Grossman. Based in Boston, ICIC issued a report this past October in conjunction with the unveiling of this year’s Inner City 100, a group of companies recognized for their growth. The report is based on research that stems from surveys conducted between the years 1999 and 2016. Its findings are the very basis of the group’s existence, not to mention the creation of the Inner City 100 list.
The nature of companies working out of America’s inner-cities is evolving. Three factors point to the benefit of the location:
- Proximity to customers,
- Proximity to major transportation hubs, and
- Proximity to a labor pool.
In terms of types of companies, manufacturing stands out as an industry that has flourished in inner-city areas. Microbreweries, for example, have met with success in inner-cities across the country, due to changes that involve fewer employees. Grossman hopes that the report will attract what he calls “anchor institutions.” These organizations, such as universities, hospitals, large corporations and government, can turn moral leadership into positive action. Rather than making empty statements, these businesses directly engage in doing business within the community.
Financing small businesses in inner-cities remains a key question. According to Grossman, capital opportunities do exist. While equity capital has been virtually non-existent, companies have been able to finance through debt of one kind or another. Do not count equity investors out, just yet, however. While they may have shown little or no interest twenty years ago, they are beginning to see inner-cities as a place to invest and where they can see better returns.
Grossman’s hopes for the report are well-founded. Check out some of these other findings:
- Among all U.S. companies, 58 percent offer employee health insurance, while 48 percent offer retirement benefits. Meanwhile, 73 percent of Inner City 100 companies offer health insurance and 58 percent offer retirement benefits.
- When Inner City 100 CEOS were asked if the inner-city location of their companies was an advantage, 55 percent answered in the affirmative.
- Over 25 percent of the customers for Inner City 100 companies are characterized as “large corporations.” Another 24 percent are considered small to mid-size businesses.
Bringing it down to a local level, Mercer County’s Small Business Counseling Program provides expanded training and technical assistance activities in order to provide entrepreneurs with greater access to counseling and business education programs. It provides one-to-one consulting and training in diverse areas, including but not limited to, client needs assessment, business planning, marketing strategy, obtaining financing, E Business, international trade and procurement opportunities.
The program is coordinated under the direction of The College of New Jersey Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a non-for-profit, management and technical assistance program. It provides services and comprehensive programs for small businesses. The College of New Jersey’s SBDC provides free management and technical assistance to emerging, growth and start-up small businesses that would otherwise not be able to afford traditional processes. Out of 11 state centers, The College of New Jersey’s SBDC covers Mercer and Middlesex Counties.
Workshops are conducted at satellite locations, such as the county library system and local bank branches. They are attended by Mercer County by women and minority entrepreneur business owners and other individuals with the capability to operate a business. The objectives and goals of the program include:
- Contribute to the growth and economic development of the small business community through small business retention and expansion.
- Increase procurement opportunities for Mercer County-based small businesses.
- Increase public and private loans provided to small-business owners.
- Promote the benefits and resources provided by county initiatives, municipalities, libraries, business networks and business partners.
- Increase business and management education for start-up and existing companies.
- Expand counseling and training to satellite sites in the Townships of Hamilton and West Windsor and the Borough of Hightstown.
All findings regarding the Inner City 100 companies ought to be relevant to other inner-city small businesses. Being a job creator and offering major employee benefits are well within your reach. Your location can be a distinct competitive advantage. Your customer base need not be limited to residents but can also include anchor institutions. Make 2019 the year for inner-city businesses!
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC
is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.
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