Our View: Small business finds friends in New Bedford

SouthCoast Today
August 20. 2015 2:01am

Some may be coming grudgingly to the realization that no casino will influence New Bedford’s economic development, but the city’s embrace of the entrepreneurial model of incremental, organic growth can be a most effective balm for the sting of that loss.
Small business runs the economic development race slow and steady, fueled by creativity and ambition.
In New Bedford, opportunities for small business continue to emerge in services, technology, manufacturing and creative arts, supported by a simultaneously expanding network of human, social and financial resources.
At the city-owned Quest Center on Wednesday, a roundtable discussion highlighted a number of those resources, not least of which was Groundwork, the shared-space business in whose offices the discussion was held.
The entrepreneurs who started Groundwork hope to host other entrepreneurs, offering shared services, spaces and utilities so new businesses can get more out of their intellectual resources.
Representatives of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, another tenant of the Quest Center, spoke of the $7.5 million in loans made since 2010 that leveraged nearly 10 times that in private investment. Remarkably, 40 percent of those loans were made to minority- and women-owned businesses.
Two other speakers alluded to upcoming programs in which entrepreneurs will get opportunities to pitch ideas to experts worried more about providing advice and resources for promising ideas than about television ratings and personal enrichment (“Shark Tank” without the sharks … or snark).
Businesses with 10 or fewer employees make up almost 80 percent of American businesses, according to the Small Business Administration, and so many of them represent folks with an idea, courage and a plan that depends on a good break or two for it to succeed.
Resources like business incubators, microlending, executive counseling and a local talent pool can provide those breaks.
New Bedford has those resources today, and they are strengthening the economic fabric of the region, slow and steady. The more immigrant-, woman-, veteran- and minority-owned small businesses that emerge in this environment, the stronger it will get.
In economics, the margin is where the action is. We see the example of the groundfish fleet, fighting against the move to put expensive at-sea observers on fishing vessels at the industry’s expense, and how for some that can push them out of profitability. We see the work of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at Wednesday’s roundtable, to demonstrate that folks filing for bankruptcy had been responsibly struggling for years before a health crisis, job loss or other catastrophic life event pushed them beyond the brink.
On Wednesday, however, we saw the successful examples of that played out for small businesses. Good policies, leveraged resources and intelligent players give those risk takers on the margin a nudge toward profitability.
This drives organic growth that leads to long-term prosperity for the entrepreneurs, the folks they hire and the communities in which they thrive.
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