Public Testimony on Temple University’s Small Business Development Center

Jobs and Education Public Hearing

City Council’s Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention

Testimony provided by:    Maura Shenker, Director, Temple University Small Business Development Center–

Testimony provided on:   December 5, 2019 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Testimony provided at:    Dobbins Technical High School, 2150 West Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia, PA

Resolution No.:                190575

I appreciate this opportunity to provide a public comment at the Jobs and Education Public Hearing for City Council’s Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention. My name is Maura Shenker, and I am the Director of Temple University’s Small Business Development Center, which is part of the Fox School of Business at Temple University.  Today the Fox School is the largest, most comprehensive business school in the greater Philadelphia region, celebrating more than 100 years of business innovation.

For the past 38 years, Temple SBDC has served pre-venture and established business owners throughout the Philadelphia region with no cost, confidential professional consulting services. These consulting services include help with strategic planning, market or sales strategies, financial analysis and loan packaging, export marketing reports, cybersecurity, government procurement and certifications. Temple SBDC is one of 16 service centers across the Commonwealth and the PA SBDC network is the only statewide, nationally accredited program that provides high quality one-on-one consulting, training and information resources to empower new and existing businesses. The SBDC program is a public/private partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and 16 universities and colleges across the Commonwealth. Currently Temple University is the only University in Philadelphia with an SBDC; the Wharton SBDC closed in August of this year.

I would like to address areas which relate to the “Narrowing the Gap” strategies, and share thoughts about how we could move forward in alignment with City Council’s interest in implementing actionable policies and programs that substantively prevent and alleviate poverty.

Under the section for “Preserve Housing Affordability and Protect Existing Homeowners,” it suggests that Philadelphia should fully leverage the benefits of the Federal Qualified Opportunity Zones.  I would like to note that Opportunity Zone funds can also be used to fund start-up companies and that mixed-use facilities can contain both affordable housing and house incubators and accelerators that promote entrepreneurship.

The Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers are specifically mentioned as a tool to increase support for micro-enterprise development and grassroots entrepreneurship, but we do so much more. In addition to helping businesses start – we also help them scale. Growing evidence supports the idea that business growth can have more short-term and long-term economic impact than business creation, business attraction, or business retention. Good jobs and new positions are created when firms grow – not necessarily when they start. Once local ventures start accelerating their growth, it systematically translates into good role models, mentors, and business partners for startup entrepreneurs. Most importantly, scale up entrepreneurs offer a growth template to startup entrepreneurs. (Isenberg, D. 2018). Building and scaling the entrepreneurial ecosystem must be a City-wide priority.

 For 32 years, the Temple SBDC has offered a nine-month intensive training program called the Construction Management Certificate. This program should be included as an existing program in the “Partnering with Building Trades to Provide Job Training for Returning Citizens” strategy. Our training provides the business-based education needed to run and grow a business in the construction industry. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are able to be licensed and bonded by the City of Philadelphia. Although this program is not focused specifically for returning citizens, there are no prerequisites required. I agree with my colleague Shirley Moy that construction-related industry employers and all of the interested workforce development partners need to be at the table to transparently discuss hiring and training needs.  This will ensure that trainings are tailored for the needs of both returning citizens and the employer, leading to actual, sustainable jobs.

In my opinion, an effective strategy to “Cross-promote existing City initiatives through unifying marketing resources” is critical for entrepreneurs. There are more than 50 different technical assistance providers throughout the City, but they are often silo-ed and duplicating services. The Department of Commerce is actively working on a city-wide initiative to catalog all the service providers and programs offered in order to facilitate access for entrepreneurs and small businesses.  I would like to commend Commerce for creating the “Philadelphia Business Lending Network” which is an online common application for entrepreneurs seeking funding.  A simple questionnaire puts the applicants’ information in front of 40 different lenders. However, many people in need of funding are unaware of this service. The city still needs to develop strategies that inform the community, of the various services available.  Incredible programs exist, but when people are unaware, they can’t take advantage of them.

In closing, the Temple SBDC believes priority should be placed on:

  • Creating and supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystems which helps businesses both start and scale.
  • Better sharing information about resources such as Opportunity Zones and how they can be utilized to benefit small business development in particular.
  • Supporting data-driven decision making about the allocation of limited resources as it relates to the impact of small business growth and the efficacy of technical assistance.

Again, I appreciate this opportunity to speak here this afternoon.

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