Op-ed | The impact of the small business community goes beyond numbers

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Last week’s news that New York City has set an all-time high for total jobs is cause for celebration. There are now more jobs in the five boroughs than there are residents of any other city in the country, and we have regained all of the nearly 1 million jobs lost during the pandemic. Perhaps the most encouraging part of the announcement was that small businesses are playing an important role in driving our economic recovery. 

This progress isn’t an accident, it is a testament to the resiliency of our business community, and the leadership of Mayor Adams and his team who have made smart investments to provide entrepreneurs and small business owners with support and resources.

Small businesses (defined as businesses employing fewer than 50 workers) make up about 94 percent of all private firms in the city, providing income to about 1 million workers and generating $250 billion in direct economic impact. But their importance goes beyond the numbers. Small businesses add to the vibrancy and character of our neighborhoods, creating communities where people want to live, work and visit.

While these businesses range from corner bodegas to professional consulting firms, the majority of the city’s small businesses are in industries that were especially vulnerable to the early effects of the pandemic. Many small businesses were forced to let go of employees, or shut their doors for good. 

It is incredibly encouraging to see these businesses rebound. Industries such as arts, entertainment, and recreation; and accommodation and food services which were amongst the hardest hit, and are showing large employment gains during the recovery period. A total of 25,000 small businesses were added in between Q2 2020 and Q2 2022, bringing the total number to about 96 percent of pre-pandemic levels. 

One vital program that has helped prop up small businesses is the Small Business Resource Network, a comprehensive approach to small business resiliency that offers free, personalized guidance and support to help businesses grow and thrive. Originally launched in October 2020 as a pandemic recovery effort, the SBRN continues to support small businesses today through a collaborative partnership between the five borough Chambers of Commerce, with support from the Mayor Adams and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. 

To date, the SBRN has reached more than 40,000 businesses throughout the five boroughs. Of these businesses 60 percent are in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods, over three quarters are minority or women owned businesses, and over one third are immigrant-owned businesses.

The program is driven by a team of Business Support Specialists who work one-on-one with small business owners and local entrepreneurs in communities across the city. By meeting small businesses where they are, SBRN has been able to help them gain access to a range of programs and services offered by the public and private sectors, including grants and loans, connections to legal counsel, business coaching, marketing guidance, and technology support. 

There is no record job growth, or equitable economic recovery, without our small business community. As we celebrate their success, it is vital that we continue to invest in programs that help them grow and thrive.

Lisa Sorin is president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce; Randy Peers is president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; Jessica Walker is the president and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce; Tom Grech is the president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; and Linda Baran is the president and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce