By Victoria Merlino
In an effort to support underrepresented and immigrant small business owners in Flushing, Queens College unveiled its new Small Business Development Center on Monday. The program features training and counseling services to help kick start entrepreneurs.
“Small businesses are the economic engine of our economy in Queens and across the nation, and it’s imperative that government be a strong partner in helping them succeed and flourish,” said U.S. Rep Grace Meng, who secured funding for the project after noting Flushing’s need for a small business assistance. “I look forward to this facility serving the needs of local entrepreneurs for many decades to come, and I urge all local small business owners to take advantage of the valuable resources that this SBDC will be offering.”
The SBDC will have an important role in Flushing.
From 2008 to 2015, total business sales in Flushing increased by 19 percent, and local businesses generated $1.34 billion per year in retail sales, according to a report about downtown Flushing by the city’s Department of Small Business Services. The report identified specific challenges for businesses in the area, including language and cultural barriers that make it difficult for some businesses to navigate support programs and government regulations, as well as competition from larger chain stores.
The SBDC will initially offer services in English and Mandarian, and will focus on helping small business owners develop business plans and apply for government loans. The new Flushing center is the ninth small business center within the city, and is the result of a collaborative program between the U.S. Small Business Administration, SUNY, CUNY, private universities and private sector investment throughout the state.
The Queens College center will be the third of its kind in Queens, joining sister centers at LaGuardia Community College, opened in 2001, and York College, opened in 1988. Together, the two centers have assisted over 21,500 businesses and have invested almost $278 million into the local economy, according to their websites.
Officials hope the outlook will be just at rosy at Queens College.
“This new center will provide vital assistance to budding entrepreneurs, including immigrants, whose start-up businesses are indispensable to our borough and city,” said CUNY Chancellor and former Queens College President Félix Matos Rodríguez. “We very much look forward to seeing the results of successful collaborations between the center’s clients and its skilled staff, complemented by the talents and contributions of our Tech Incubator team, faculty, and student interns.”