BY SVETLANA SHKOLNIKOVA
FORT LEE – With the construction of Redevelopment Area 5 just steps away, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-9, Mayor Mark Sokolich, members of the council and representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) toured some of the businesses on Oct. 8 that will most likely feel the affects of a changing downtown to introduce them to the SBA.
The federal agency provides counseling and support for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including loans to help start businesses or fund expansions with the help of government-backed guarantees.
Fort Lee businesses took out 57 loans worth approximately $32 million through the SBA over the past five years but most business owners don’t know the program even exists, said Pascrell.
“It turns out that we’re a well-kept secret,” said SBA Deputy District Director Richard Zilg. “But we don’t want to be a secret anymore. That’s why we appreciate working with the congressman and getting out here to meet the business owners and tell them about all the services we have to offer.”
Most of the businesses the group visited, including restaurants In Napoli, So Kong Dong and Cafe La Maison, Belle Hair Salon, Serri Beauty Salon, Tina Nails and Venus Cleaners, had not heard of the Small Business Administration and welcomed the information.
Pascrell began his small business walks in Leonia last year and has continued them throughout Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties.
“We want to make you more successful,” he told the owner of Cosmos, a luxury goods store in Fort Lee.
FirstMed of NJ, the borough’s only urgent care and walk-in medical center, is one of the “role models” emblematic of that success after obtaining an $800,000 loan facilitated by the SBA in 2012, said Pascrell.
The clinic, which sees 25 to 40 patients a day, was built on the grounds of a 4,500 square foot former garage that had “a storm drain, some spiders and that’s about it,” said co-owner Steven Kim.
Kim and his partner struggled to raise the necessary funds to start their business until they stumbled upon SBA loans at a meeting with a bank.
“It’s a really, really wonderful process,” said Kim. “As far as I’m concerned, this is what supports this all.”
Pascrell said he hoped others reap similar rewards but do so by approaching the SBA directly “so that it doesn’t happen by accident.”
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Posted October 17 2014 at 8:30 PM Permanent Link