The Small Business Voice; May 2018
An Observation that Resonates! Do the Right Thing Against
Sometimes it pays to go back in history.
At a March 18, 2015, Assembly budget hearing, former Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblyman Gary Schaer, made a remarkable observation. It was the subject of a NJSBDC magazine issue column of 2015. At the hearing, then Chairman Schaer seemed to be amazed that despite NJSBDC’s “BIG” impact and a wealth of client success stories, the state’s investment remains stable only. So, he rightfully observed and questioned “Why?” How can an organization with this kind of impact, and with legislative efforts being made each year to restore increased funding, not make its way into the final state budget for a restored increase? Well, Chairman Schaer’s poignant way of raising that question actually stirred our clients and network’s thinking. After all, how could something so rational not translate into a real state funding restored increase? Well, that year the final state budget restored increased funding from $250,000 to $500,000! But, that’s where it was during the Florio years.
Schaer’s observations still resonate. We’re hoping that the new Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, and longtime Vice-Chairman John Burzichelli, remember Schaer’s insights when they and other Committee members start to formulate this year’s budget legislation.
We have a new Governor who seems supportive of small business. And, so, it is the year in which both the Legislature and the Murphy Administration should do the right thing. Restore state funding to where it was a decade ago, before former Governor Jon Corzine reduced NJSBDC’s $1 million allocation to $250,000 where it was maintained by the Christie administration until June 2015, when the Legislature allocated $500,000. Following the lead of the Legislature, in his last proposed budget, Christie finally proposed $500,000. Governor Murphy’s proposed budget maintains NJSBDC’s allocation at that level.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Senator Paul Sarlo, a longtime advocate of America’s SBDC New Jersey, and former Assembly Budget Chairman Assemblyman Gary Schaer led the charge to restore state funding for this program in 2015. Other Budget Committee members from both parties joined like Assemblymen Gordon Johnson, Raj Mukherji, John Burzichelli, Benjie Wimberly, Troy Singleton (now Senator), Declan O’Scanlon (now Senator), John DiMaio, Anthony Bucco, Jr., Vice-Budget Committee Chairman Senator Brian Stack, Senators Linda Greenstein, Sandra Cunningham, Anthony Bucco, Steve Oroho, Sam Thompson, etc. Fifty percent of the Legislature’s members had signed on as sponsors/co-sponsors of a budget resolution calling for a restored increase.
Why should New Jersey’s investment pale in terms of other states’ investments in SBDC? With similar populations, North Carolina invests $2 million and Georgia invests $3 million in its SBDC. Connecticut, with a population less than half of New Jersey’s population, invests $1.3 million.
A recent 2017 survey of state SBDCs indicates that the average state investment nationally in SBDC programs is $1.252 million. Can’t New Jersey’s Legislature and Governor restore state funding to where it was a decade ago? If business expansion, new business start-ups, jobs, and economic growth are such high priorities, then, restoring $1 million for NJSBDC should be easy. If not this year, when?
Small business owners pay their fair share of taxes, so the services they receive back through this program are pre-paid by them. If small business owners and start-ups had to pay for-profit accounting, public relations and marketing firms for these types of services, it would be cost prohibitive!
The request for a restored increase isn’t asking for new, additional tax dollars; just reallocate existing budgetary dollars to a high return on investment (ROI) program. For every $1 invested, more than $2 are returned, according to an independent study of the program.
NJSBDC is a business and jobs producer! A recent past study shows our network’s cost per created and retained job is way less ($1,150/$1,204) than the past, average cost associated with jobs created and retained under the state’s business grant incentives program aimed at larger companies, estimated at $22,044 per job.
The Legislature has always been the mainstay for the thousands of small business owners this program assists. Now, our thousands of small business clients look for your leadership again.
This year is the year to DO THE RIGHT THING, AGAIN.
Deborah K. Smarth is Chief Operating Officer and Associate State Director of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.