This summer, the Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC), Prudential Insurance and New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) announced the BCDC Newark Fund, a loan program intended to help small businesses that want to set up shop in Newark, N.J. The program is just one part of a larger effort to bring companies to the city.
The largest city in the state, Newark is about 13 miles from Manhattan. It has experienced a resurgence over the past few years, boasting the area’s first new arena in a quarter century, the Prudential Center, which opened in 2007; a growing population, which is a big change from the previous decades when residents fled; and a landscape that’s being redesigned by an influx of new businesses, buildings, and green spaces, even urban farms. Just this week, Prudential, which has been headquartered in Newark for more than 130 years, got approval for a $444 million office facility.
Prudential has more than 50,000 employees around the world and $961 billion in assets under management. During the press conference announcing the new loan program, Lata Reddy, the company’s VP of corporate social responsibility noted that small business is “critical to the economic vitality of the city.”
With this latest fund, Marie Mascherin, chief lending officer at the NJCC, told us the partner organizations were trying to create an alternative to traditional sources, like banks, which have become more cautious about lending money to small businesses and startups. Add to that the lack of resources for minority-owned businesses and there’s a real need.
“We’re trying to fill a void that’s been created as a result of the banks pulling out,” says Mascherin.
According to BCDC CEO Lyneir Richardson, the goal of his organization “is to have a variety of tools” available to small business owners and minority entrepreneurs who need a helping hand.
“Our approach is to be proactive,” says Richardson. “We want to get the message out that if companies see an opportunity here, we can be the first stop.”
The organization has a number of funds, and millions of dollars have already been invested in building new businesses in the city, with “three or four deals in the pipeline,” Richardson says. Businesses that have already benefited from the BCDC’s help include a franchisee, a clothing retailer, two grocery stores (“solving the food desert problems,” says Richardson), a pediatric dentistry office, and hotels.
Besides the financial assistance the group offers, it also serves as the center of a small business network, connecting people and companies in a way that’s useful for all parties involved.
“Our work is more of a quarterback,” says Richardson. “Our goal is to make economic development happen.”
With all of that in mind, Richardson has four main reasons why small business owners should plant their flags in Newark:
- It’s close to New York.
- It’s a hub that’s accessible to Newark International Airport, home to to the third most active port in the country, and near trains and roads, which has proven handy for distribution companies.
- There’s great access to talent because of the five colleges (Rutgers and New Jersey Institute of Technology among them) and 44,000 students who live and study in the city.
- “Now we have this Mayor whose celebrity helps not only shine a light on the city, but on entrepreneurs,” says Richardson.