Brooklyn is on course to become the third largest city in the United States this year, surpassing Chicago, if counted as an independent city. And the commerce sector is increasing at the same time:  In absolute numbers, job growth has seen its largest increase in over 15 year, surpassing the fourth other boroughs, the rest of the city and the entire state by significant margins, according to a 2019 report by The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

However, of these employment successes, the same cannot be said of Brooklyn’s small businesses, which are reporting increasing difficulty over the years keeping their doors open!

Small businesses matter!

While larger firms may be perceived as more stable, better able to weather economic 22 downturns, better disposed to draw on resources and hire more people, small firms are critical and potent drivers of innovation. Well over a third of businesses in Brooklyn are very small businesses. In 2014, 29% of firms in Brooklyn had less than 20 employees and another 10% had less than 50 employees.

On Wednesday March 4, at the Flatbush BKLYN Commons, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and a team of community stakeholders invited small business owners and managers out for a chance to speak directly to the community leaders in business about the problems and challenges they are facing every day in running their businesses.

Hosted by Adams, the free roundtable was in partnership with BKLYN Commons, RiseBoro, Bed Stuy Gateway BID, Community Board 3 and Graham Avenue BID. “Small businesses are part of the fabric of our community, and we want our community to be strong,” said Adams, who has announced his running for mayor in the 2020 elections.

Dozens of small business owners and entrepreneurs shared their burdens. Topping the list of their concerns were rising rents; access to capital and loans; networking and business opportunities; and the ongoing challenges of doing business with the city, which many owners expressed– between the applications, wait time and limited success– was a waste of time.

In the end, there was only so much any of the elected official could promise to do. But hearing the personal anecdotes, the struggles, the issues that keep the small business owners up at night underscored the need to make small business development a priority for all in 2020.

Small Business Roundtable at BKLYN Commons (l to r): Senior Project Manager Riseboro Community Partnership Randal Toure; Director, Membership Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Lorraine Lowe; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; Head of Growth, BKLYN Commons Johanne Brierre.

Young businesses are perceived as drivers of innovation; small businesses are perceived as the community’s anchor institutions. Numerous academic studies have supported this conclusion. As the borough begins to grow and develop while also taking the citywide lead in tech innovation, the small businesses will be the underpinning; the glue that will hold it all together.

The takeaway for Adams and the others at the roundtable was that supporting small businesses in Brooklyn can no longer afford to be a notion; it must become a priority.

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