TRENTON – A legislative package spearheaded by Senator Andrew Zwicker and Senator Vin Gopal, and designed to support small businesses and help them to grow in a changing and tech-centric economy was approved by the Senate and now goes to the governor’s desk for singing.
Under a small business mentorship bill, S-3400, sponsored by Senator Zwicker and Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz, the NJ Business Action Center (BAC), in the Department of State, would establish a mentorship program to match those just starting off with those that are experienced in sustaining and growing a small business.
“New Jersey’s economy, like the global economy, continues to evolve, in fact so rapidly that both new and established businesses are having to adjust quickly. This program will promote partnerships, as well nurture a space where a sharing of ideas and best practices for our small businesses will help not only survive, but thrive,” said Senator Zwicker (D-Middlesex/Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon).
The legislation encourages mentor entities to share their experiences transitioning to a new form of commerce, such as transitioning from brick-and-mortar to online or transitioning to the sale of a product or service that the mentor entity did not previously have experience selling, and suggestions to avoid common pitfalls.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, especially here in New Jersey, where more than 861,000 businesses reside. By bolstering existing mentoring programs, through both new and proven strategies, our small business community will continue to grow and remain a vital part of the state’s economy,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex).
This bill would also seek to establish a formal mentorship program under the NJ Business Action Center by requiring at minimum quarterly and in-person meetings between the mentor and mentee entities.
A second bill, S-3210, sponsored by Senator Gopal and Senator Nellie Pou, would require the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers, in consultation with the BAC, to establish a program to help small businesses develop an Internet presence.
“Starting a small business is challenging enough. Being able to utilize the internet and launching supportive social media campaigns and efficient websites can be equally daunting,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This bill will help businesses grow their online presence and sales, and help them become more efficient as they grow.”
The bill also requires the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers to conduct outreach to institutions of higher education, county colleges, the technology sector, local community centers, libraries, and other similar entities to recruit volunteers to assist the center in administering and promoting the program.
“Formerly traditional Main Street businesses are finding they must adjust their business models, and their businesses practices, to survive in a more digitized and quickly-changing marketplace,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “This program will provide much of the technological know-how they need to succeed in a 21st-Century world.”
The third bill, S-3286, sponsored by Senator Gopal, would require the NJ Business Action Center (BAC) to establish and maintain a public database of vacant commercial space available for purchase or lease by small businesses.
Under the bill, the center would be required to update the database on a monthly basis with new information concerning the availability of vacant commercial space.
“Vacant storefronts are eyesores, and do not present the best face for local economies. Unfortunately, finding industries who might be well-suited for these vacancies takes time because willing tenants might not be aware of the opportunity,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This database of vacant commercial space will speed the process and help vacancies fill more quickly.”
The database would include information such as:
- the square footage of any vacant commercial space;
- the capital equipment included in any vacant commercial space; and
- the building systems installed in any vacant commercial space, including, but not limited to, fire alarms, fire suppression systems, security systems, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
The center would make the vacancy database available through its Internet web page and publicize its availability at business associations, state and local chambers of commerce, and municipalities in the State.
The bills, S-3400, S-3210, and S-3286, were released by votes of 36-0, 36-0, and 34-1, respectively, and now head to the Governor’s desk.