Guest Op-Ed: Supporting immigrant businesses via The Brooklyn Fund

June 10, 2013 Carlo Scissura
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Immigration has always been – and remains – a hot button issue. While Congress debates immigration policy, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is doing a lot to help business owners in the borough who were born outside our borders.

In May, the Chamber — in partnership with the New York Business Development Corporation and NYC’s Business Solutions Center – officially launched The Brooklyn Fund.

The creation of this fund – specific to Brooklyn business owners and entrepreneurs – will go a long way in helping the borough’s economy and make it possible for more businesses to open and existing ones to grow. There is a real financial need on the part of small businesses, particularly ones owned by immigrants.

I am the son of immigrant entrepreneurs. My parents, immigrants from Sicily, owned and operated an Italian restaurant and a luncheonette for many years. I am fully aware of what it means to grow up in that world.

We have been in discussion with the NYBDC since March on the creation of the Brooklyn Fund and why it is so important for the scores of mom-and-pop stores that are open and for those thinking of starting a business.

The $10 million Brooklyn Fund offers small dollar loans — up to $350,000 — backed by U.S. government guarantees through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Community Advantage and Small Loan Advantage Programs. Interest rates on the fund can run as low as six percent.

The loans are currently available through our Business Solutions Center at 9 Bond Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Thanks to the New York City Department of Small Business Services and Commissioner Rob Walsh for all their support during this process and for supporting the fund’s creation.

As part of the Brooklyn Fund, immigrant business owners can take advantage of a loan program called the Brooklyn Immigrant Fund. I can’t think of a better way to help the borough’s immigrant entrepreneurs than with the chance to attain low-interest loans. Whatever vehicles we can put forth to help these businesses will benefit the economic climate of Brooklyn and our city.

These business owners will hire more people, helping bring down unemployment, and ensuring that Brooklyn – and New York City – remains a wonderful place to do business.

The Chamber has been doing more outreach to immigrant businesses this year. This spring, we were named a finalist by the New York City Economic Development Corporation in a contest – called Competition THRIVE – that spotlights the best programs for immigrant business owners.

The one we have created — named “Go Digital” — is a boot camp program aimed at giving immigrant firms immediate access to experts and creates tools to establish an online presence. The pilot phase includes engaging two communities: Arab-Americans in Bay Ridge and Russian-Americans in Sheepshead Bay.

This program goes hand-in-hand with the creation of the Brooklyn Fund. We want business owners – especially immigrants – to know that we are here to help you!

Photo courtesy of Carlo Scissura.

Carlo A. Scissura is the President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. To join the Chamber, visit www.ibrooklyn.com or call 718-875-1000.


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