Op-Ed | New York City must continue to commit to small business recovery

#ShopLocal stamped on a paper bag – shop local message for small retailers / businesses
Photo via Getty Images

Small businesses were hit the hardest during the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar shops, particularly retail and restaurants, suffered tremendous losses from the lockdown. Return to office mandates remain in flux and foot traffic across office-dense districts continues to hover well-below pre-pandemic levels. E-commerce, with convenient 24-hour door-to-door deliveries, is becoming the preferred way to shop, while inflation is causing restaurant prices to rise 9%, further threatening the rebound of the city’s restaurants. 

Our City’s regulatory framework has historically created one of the most challenging and litigious places to open, maintain, and grow a business. Entrepreneurs’ time is often clogged by endless paperwork, and capital is tied up hiring expeditors or licensing and compliance lawyers to fend off needless fines and penalties. Over the prior decade, the City of New York added countless expensive mandates and red tape that unnecessarily burden our city’s 200,000 plus small businesses. 

In terms of economic recovery and growth, the stakes could not be higher.

Thankfully, Mayor Adams and Council Speaker Adams both seem committed to a new paradigm. Since taking office, one of Mayor Adams’ first initiatives aims to overhaul punitive components of the regulatory system under his “Small Business Forward” plan. Agencies are working with small business leaders to identify antiquated and impractical regulatory obstacles, streamline the licensing process, and consolidate the web of agency interactions into a one-stop business portal. These are signs of hope.

The NYC Small Business Resource Network (SBRN), a collaboration between the five borough Chambers of Commerce, the Partnership Fund, and the Partnership for New York City has already built a framework for streamlined provision of direct support for small businesses, and we are thrilled to have Mayor Adams’ support for this initiative. Launched in 2020, the SBRN connects small businesses to over 150 public and private resources alongside free, personalized one-on-one guidance from our team of 30 Business Support Specialists in the field, including grants, legal assistance, and marketing and digital tools. Funded by the Peterson Foundation and supported by the NYC Economic Development Corporation, we’ve connected 10,000 small businesses with resources to help them recover, grow and thrive, and demand for services persists. The Adams Administration recently invested $1.5 million to extend the SBRN for another year, recognizing its impact and ability to scale.     

This flexible, public-private model has allowed the Chambers to quickly respond to challenges as they arise. In response to the increased demand for digital commerce options, for example, the SBRN set up the “Open + Online” program, which has completed over 700 projects, providing websites, SEO consultations, and branding updates for small businesses who previously lacked a digital presence.

Chambers of Commerce, like ours in Brooklyn, have reimagined their mission and purpose during COVID, and now are playing a key and critical role in fostering the city’s economic recovery. It’s refreshing to have a mayor and an administration who not only value our efforts, but also invests in these efforts.

Randy Peers is President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.