New York Congressman Paul Tonko and members of the New York chapter of the U.S. Small Business Association gathered in Schenectady this week to announce an initiative to boost small business growth.
The federal Emerging Leadership Initiative was created 20 years ago to provide entrepreneurs with the education and training necessary to grow their small businesses and spur regional economic growth. Responding to a survey, program graduates have reported a combined $73 million in new financing, $1 billion in government contracts, and 62 percent of responding graduates reported a revenue increase.
On Tuesday, Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat representing the Capital Region, was the keynote speaker for the initiative’s New York class of 2018 kickoff at MopCo Theater in Schenectady. The theater is home to improv and other performing arts.
“Opportunities and dreams to be strengthened, making certain there are ways to leverage financing that enable you to provide for a sound business plan getting leadership activity in that regard in that capacity growing your product, growing your business advancing awareness of what you’re doing and creating more opportunity for government contract which are all important for small businesses,” said Tonko.
The location of the kickoff was intentional. Michael Burns, the owner of MopCo, is a member of the class of 2017 Emerging Leadership Initiative.
“So In this program I learned a lot, one of the amazing things about knowledge is you don’t know what you don’t know and I learned things I didn’t know I needed to learn but I needed them,” Burns said. “So I really encourage anybody whose business is at that point where it’s going to grow or not, grow it and take advantage of this free training.”
Kat Koppett, co-founder of MopCo, says she has noticed changes in Burns’ business practices after his participation in the program.
"way to be more grounded, and more focused and more intentional about what we are doing.”
The event wrapped up with remarks from Bernard Paprocki, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Syracuse District. Paprocki shared highlights of the seven-month curriculum involving about 100 hours of classroom time. He touted opportunities for small business owners to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders and financial groups through the Emerging Leadership Initiative.
“A business must be at least three years old have at least one employee other than the owner and have revenue between $400,000 and $10 million,” Paprocki said. “Most importantly the individual owner must want to be able to take their business to the next level.”
The deadline for program applications for the class of 2018 is March 16th. Finalists will be notified April 3rd. Reporting from Schenectady for WAMC News, I’m Elizabeth Hill.