Small business means big business for our local economy, and the Small Business Administration has helped local entrepreneurs grow and thrive for decades. The federal government created the SBA in 1953 with a mission to aid, assist, and counsel small businesses, and the agency has been doing that ever since. Last year, the Small Business Administration’s Buffalo office created 8,000 jobs through its lending program.
The SBA’s Buffalo district director, Frank Sciortino, explained how successful the local office’s lending efforts have been. “We helped over 6,000 existing businesses. We created over 2,000 new businesses. We did over 300 new startups. So, this is an indication of what our lending programs do.”
Small business lending is only one of the different programs the SBA offers new and existing enterprises. Business owners can access experienced management assistance through SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE helps fledgling entrepreneurs partner with veteran business managers who volunteer their time and expertise. In Western New York, there is a SCORE chapter in both Buffalo and Rochester.
Local businesses can also take advantage of any of the SBA’s 26 Small Business Development Centers in New York state. There are four in Western New York—one each at the State University Colleges at Buffalo and Brockport, one at Jamestown Community College, and one specifically for women at Canisius College. Sciortino pointed out that cost is not an issue for any entrepreneur who’d like to use the local SBDC’s programs. “All of these provide services free of charge, so you can't say I couldn't afford it, because you can. All you have to do give your time and your effort.”
The SBA’s Buffalo District also sponsors small business seminars; the agency ran 319 during the past year alone. One of the most successful annual SBA events is Straight Talk. Sciortino explained that Straight Talk was established 23 years ago to help minority and women businesses in underserved communities. Each year, the program takes place the Saturday after Martin Luther King Day. Attendees can continue their learning through a related workshop series that starts two weeks after Straight Talk and runs for eight weeks every Tuesday at Medaille College. Last year, over a thousand people went through the combined events.
The SBA can also help entrepreneurs build business connections with the federal government, the largest goods and services purchaser in the United States and the world. The SBA’s Buffalo office recently made $1.248 billion available to small businesses in its networking area.
Buffalo’s SBA also holds the Small Business Stage, an annual luncheon where local banks and economic development agencies honor outstanding small businesses.
Sciortino feels that the small business forecast for Buffalo and Western New York is extremely positive. “'I’m an optimist by nature,” he said. “So, for me, the glass is always half full… Based on the renaissance that's been going on in Western New York and specifically the City of Buffalo, it's wonderful. And I would say that the future is so bright, it's gonna blind you.”