JP Observer: Like buying locally? Support the state business aid budget

Bella Luna, The Blue Nile, Fat Ram’s Pumpkin Tattoo, Mike’s Fitness, El Oriental de Cuba, City Feed and Supply, Xposure by Noél and the Tony Williams Dance Center (home to BalletRox, which produces the Urban Nutcracker)…

These are just some of the popular local businesses that the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) has helped over the years, making buying locally easier for everyone.

The principal source of funding for the aid, the state’s $2 million Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program, in existence since 2006, mysteriously disappeared from Gov. Charlie Baker’s recently proposed 2016 budget. The funds are earmarked for allocation to nonprofit community development corporations (CDCs) to use to help small businesses.

Baker’s budget did have an additional line item for a $2 million Urban Agenda Economic Development Grants program to work with urban entrepreneurs to promote small businesses and create jobs.

In a doubly happy outcome for small business aficionados, including the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), the SBTA line item was restored in the House Ways and Means proposed budget just released on April 15. In addition, Baker’s new line item for urban businesses was preserved, resulting in $4 million total for aid to local small businesses.

The state is the principal source of funds for JPNDC’s Small Business Program. Since 1996, 750 to 900 local clients have been served, usually 60 to 75 per year. According to JPNDC, nearly 80 percent of participants in any given year are Latin American immigrants. JPNDC has facilitated 141 loans, resulting in $10.3 million in financing and the creation of 339 new jobs and the retention of 435 jobs. The state grant for 2014-15 has allowed the local program to add a part-time staff person to serve more clients.

Thirty-two CDCs in neighborhoods across the state have benefitted from the state funds. In the past year, according to a MACDC fact sheet, SBTA programs helped 1,058 small businesses start, stabilize, hire and/or obtain financing of a total of nearly $16.5 million.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is cited in a MACDC fact sheet saying that firms with fewer than 20 employees account for over 500,000 jobs in Massachusetts. And self-employment has grown in the state by 14 percent in the last decade.

“These businesses play a vital role in the life of a neighborhood or small town, offering services, products and jobs to area residents, while creating the vibrant business district and downtowns that are essential to our local communities,” MACDC says.

Local State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez said in an interview this week that he knows “the value of small business” to urban neighborhoods, and he is committed to funding their support.

The House Ways and Means budget shows total spending of about $100 million less than Baker’s, according to WBUR News. But that pro-small business budget still has several important steps to go through, including the state Senate and the governor, before fiscal year 2016 begins July 1. Everyone who believes in buying locally should voice support for the provisions that offer aid to our small businesses.

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