BY JON CRONIN
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, which usually meets in Washington D.C., convened at the Bramson Ort College Library on Austin Street in Forest Hills on Tuesday, Feb. 23, to hear testimony on overcoming challenges to exporting for small businesses.
Presiding over the hearing was Rep. Steve Chabot (R- Ohio), Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), and Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-Brooklyn). Testifying for the committee were Toni Corsini, the NY/NJ Regional Manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration and Pascual Castano, business advisor for the New York State Small Business Development Center.
Castano noted that the NYS Small Business Development Center does not lend money, but advises clients on increasing their business intelligence. He said that 97 percent of all exports in the metro area come from small businesses.
“My aim is to demystify the exporting process,” Castano said, adding, “Foreign markets are essential to our small businesses.”
Corsini said that some common problems are that small business owners do not have the production capability that the international market demands. Their next obstacle is access to capital and Corsini noted that when owners sit down with lenders they are often unprepared. “The problem is most have no business structure,” said Corsini.
She said the SBA has an export business planner on their website that she urges owners to use before receiving a consultation. Corsini added that banks don’t have the resources to expend on small businesses and it has been useful that the SBA budget has increased over the years from $1.5 billion to $5 billion.
Both Corsini and Castano said owners are afraid of exporting to overseas businesses and because they are worried there will be no accountability if they do not get paid for product. Corsini added that the SBA instructs small business owners on methods of payment that will guarantee payment.
“It’s a fear factor,” said Corsini. Part of the issue is they think exporting is for big business, she said. When advising these owners, she tells them, “Let’s start with Canada.” She explains that American businesses are geo-locked by the continent. In other parts of the world, businesses are always dealing with other businesses on their continent. Corsini and Castano said part of their advisory roles is aiding these businesses is product assessment that would target areas of the globe that have a market for their goods.
Meng was curious if either the SBA or the NYS Small Business Development Center had staff that could speak several languages. They said they currently have Spanish speaking employees but no others.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin