April 9, 2012
More than 200 minority and immigrant entrepreneurs and their supporters were encouraged to boost the region’s economy by starting and growing their own small businesses at a half-day workshop sponsored by Pittsburgh-based CEED and several other groups and agencies on Friday, March 30, 2012.
“Encouraging small business creation, especially in historically disadvantaged communities, isn’t just important for the people living in those communities, it’s essential,” said Congressman Mike Doyle. “It’s essential for the nation’s economy as well because our life-blood is really in the United States’ small businesses.”
Doyle was one of several high-ranking officials from federal, state and local government to address the workshop, which was titled “The Economics of Entrepreneurialism, Wealth and Globalization.” Their message was that small business growth can help the entire region’s economy to improve.
“The era of big industry is over,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told the group. “But this change creates opportunity for small business, especially for entrepreneurs. We have a great community, and it can be a lot greater if the doors are open to everybody.”
CEED is a non-profit organization that provides free business consulting services and microloans (under $10,000) to entrepreneurs who might not otherwise qualify for bank loans. To date, CEED has helped start about 125 small business in the 10-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania, according to CEED Executive Director Rufus Idris.
Joining CEED in planning the free event were Allegheny County’s Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (MWDBE), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration, First National Bank, and the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the White House.
Willie C. Taylor, Regional Director of the Economic Development Administration in Philadelphia, said he sees business development prospects in the region as very bright, thanks in part to a spirit of entrepreneurship created at local colleges and universities.
“In Allegheny County, there are key institutions which create global strength, from Pitt to Duquesne University to Carnegie Mellon University, everything from GED to PhD,” he said. “There are people who understand the challenges. This region has had the highest rate of ‘Brain Gain’ of cities nationwide.
“This can be exported into the global marketplace,” Taylor said. The region must “use wealth wisely, to be sure it flows where it should.”
Cedric M. Grant, Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama, said groups in the community like CEED are vital to the success of small businesses within minority communities.
“Faith-based organizations are the most trusted in the community, and they interface daily with those who need help and services,” Grant said. “The federal government can’t do everything, but it has a responsibility to partner with those who do.”
Jerry Flavin of the Small Business Administration pointed out that two-thirds of all jobs created in the past 15 years came from small businesses, and said his office is committed to working with organizations like CEED to help small businesses incubate and succeed.
The SBA offers “Three Cs” of service, Flavin said: Counseling and training to help entrepreneurs with ideas determine if their goals are appropriate and realistic, Capital-access assistance by guaranteeing loans that banks would not ordinarily take on; and Contracting assistance, to tap into the $100 billion in government-related contracts that go to small businesses every year.
CEED is an excellent candidate to become a microlender intermediary in the Pittsburgh Region, Flavin said after the session, meaning that it would be able to provide startup loans to qualified small businesses with funds provided by SBA. CEED already provides similar startup funds through a grant from the Economic Development Administration, Idris said.
Dr. Howard B. Slaughter, Jr., President and CEO of Christian Management Enterprises, LLC, and Adjunct Professor of Business of Point Park University said, “Today’s U.S. economy is not dominated by multi-national corporations, but its small businesses, which account for 52% of all U.S. workers. Nearly 67.2 million Americans work for companies employing fewer than 499 workers. Allegheny County’s small businesses are leveraging marketing and business expansion opportunities, which makes this an attractive region for federal investment.”
Executive Director Rufus Idris said CEED “tries to put community members in the driver’s seat as we work toward economic development and self-sufficiency. Our ultimate goal is to help entrepreneurs achieve greater control over their lives and businesses. We work with our businesses for three to five years, to be sure they survive and thrive.”
In addition to various speakers, participants in the seminar participated in break-out sessions, including a faith-based roundtable discussion and a small business networking session. They also heard the experiences of small business entrepreneurs Chase Patterson of Corporate Diversity Associates, Wakike Jones of Urgent Denture Repair, and Don Williams of Jet Industries, LLC.
“Everyone in the United States has a strong common interest in promoting economic development in our most economically distressed communities,” Congressman Doyle told the group.
For more information about CEED, go to www.usaceed.org.