Will serve underrepresented communities in the area
BY BENJAMIN FANG
To mark National Small Business Week, two local colleges teamed up to launch a new Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in the borough.
On May 6, leaders from Queens College and LaGuardia Community College joined Congresswoman Grace Meng to cut the ribbon on the new facility across the street from Queens College in Flushing.
This is the third SDBC in Queens and the ninth in New York City. A collaboration among the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), State University of New York (SUNY), City University of New York (CUNY) and private universities, development centers provide crucial services to grow area small businesses.
“Young entrepreneurs come with their ideas and their energy and take advantage of the services here,” said CUNY chancellor and Queens College president Felix V. Matos Rodriguez.
For no charge, entrepreneurs can meet with business advisors to develop business plans, apply for government loans, and receive access to training and counseling. SBDCs are primarily located on college campuses, allowing for collaboration with faculty and students studying business administration as well.
The planning for the small business center began in 2014, when Meng and other federal officials hosted a House Small Business Subcommittee hearing at Queens College to examine SBA’s outreach efforts.
Meng said she heard from local entrepreneurs that northeast Queens needed its own SBDC in the district. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the congresswoman worked to secure $130 million for SBDC’s nationwide.
Approximately $160,000 of that went toward funding the Queens College facility.
“This new center will serve as a vital asset to small business owners, including those who are immigrants and other underrepresented communities,” Meng said. “It will ensure that local entrepreneurs have the tools and support they need to grow and thrive.”
LaGuardia opened its own development center in 2001, and has since served nearly 6,000 businesses. Their work has led to the investment of more than $60 million in the local economy, and the creation or saving of nearly 2,000 jobs.
“It is prosperity that grows our community,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow. “That’s what makes a community.”
Rosa Figueroa, director of LaGuardia’s SBDC, will initially oversee the Queens College center until they find their own director. Figueroa has been tasked with training two business advisors to start.
She said the planning began in earnest last August, when Queens College acquired the space, furniture and, most importantly, the employees.
All kinds of businesses are encouraged to seek services, ranging from those just starting off to those that need to grow or purchase property with a loan.
Figueroa added that the services will be provided in English and Mandarin at the Queens College site, but will eventually include Korean and Spanish as well.
“Having different languages makes it easier for our clients to be able to work with our business advisors,” she said.
The development center director said they do a lot of “hand-holding” for their clients because many immigrant entrepreneurs have to learn about the process of getting necessary permits and licenses.
“We basically show them everything that has to be done,” she said.