Annual Highlights 2012

A slowly growing economy, uncertainty from a presidential race, the looming fiscal cliff, and a devastating super storm….It was quite the year for small businesses!  We responded to these challenges with new loan products, new partnerships, and new levels of assistance – all designed to help businesses to start, grow and thrive.

Greater Access to Capital

Growing small businesses require larger amounts of capital to keep pace, but conventional sources are often still out of reach.  That’s why UCEDC became an SBA Community Advantage 7a lender – this innovative program offers loans up to $250,000 for a wide range of purposes and gives businesses the boost they need to get to the next level.  We closed our first three 7a loans in late 2012, for a total of $309,000.  In the process, we helped to create and retain twelve jobs and contributed to the economic stability of three communities.2012

Owning your own business is certainly an achievement, but many small business operators would like to take the next step and own their own building. Conventional lending requires large down payments and up-front fees, making it difficult for many entrepreneurs to come up with the required cash.

That’s where the SBA 504 Commercial Real Estate and Major Equipment Loan Program comes in.  UCEDC works in partnership with commercial lenders to structure financing that typically calls for only a 10% contribution from the borrower.  Soft costs and closing costs can be rolled into the loan, maximizing cash flow that can be invested back into the business.

We received approval to become an SBA 504 lender (or Community Development Company) in late 2012 after an arduous 11-month review process.  Working with strategic partners such as bankers , loan brokers, commercial realtors, CPAs/accountants, and lawyers to identify potential clients, we’ve been laying the groundwork  for our first loan in 2013.

Help for the Unexpected

We knew it was going to be bad, but no one could have predicted the full measure of devastation that Super Storm Sandy brought to small businesses throughout New Jersey.  As if the physical damage wasn’t enough, days (and sometimes weeks) of no power kept businesses shuttered.  And even if a business emerged physically unscathed, often their revenue took a big hit as their customers 2012_1dealt with their own storm-related problems.

Business owners needed working capital to fill in insurance gaps, order new inventory, pay bills, and otherwise get back on track.   UCEDC had money to lend, but businesses couldn’t afford a standard loan package in this emergency situation .  Enter Investors Bank to the rescue.

Demonstrating its commitment to small business development, Investors Bank awarded UCEDC a generous grant that allowed us to offer loans of up to $25,000 at just 2% for five years with no collateral required.  Our Storm Recovery Loan program was launched just weeks after the October 30 storm, with applications arriving steadily from throughout New Jersey.

We’re also grateful for the grant we received from Capital One Bank to support UCEDC’s extensive storm recovery efforts.

Quick Pitch to Success

While UCEDC has been offering entrepreneurial training for years, 2012 marked the first time its graduates were given the opportunity to win a cash award while showing off what they learned.  Thanks to Capital One Bank, we launched the Annual Quick Pitch Business Competition, where Joan Dickason, a certified holistic health coach and owner of Crossroads Nutrition, took first place.

Joan Dickason, winner of the 1st Annual Quick Pitch Business Competition
Joan Dickason, winner of the 1st Annual Quick Pitch Business Competition

The competition is a collaboration between Capital One Bank and UCEDC and gives our entrepreneurial training graduates the opportunity to work directly with a Capital One small business banking expert to refine their business proposal.  They are then asked to make a short presentation, or “quick pitch” to a panel of judges from UCEDC and Capital One, where they are assessed on the viability of their business idea, knowledge of the marketplace, and ability to connect with their customer.

Joan competed against  other UCEDC training program graduates, and won first place thanks to her “confident, professional presentation”.   The judges lauded her “deep understanding of her target market” , “creative marketing ideas” and her overall commitment to her business.  Capital One awarded Dickason $1,000 for her win.

Partners in Business Development

We’ve always prided ourselves on the depth and breadth of our community partnerships – relationships with private and governmental organizations and agencies that share our mission of small business development.  Without them, we wouldn’t be able to deliver close to 100 training events to thousands of small business Asbury Park postcard_0owners throughout the state each year.

But our relationship with Interfaith Neighbors’ Business Development Center in Asbury Park has evolved into a particularly productive association, with opportunities to reach deeper into the community while helping to bolster the new business incubator.

The Business Development Center has become the permanent home of UCEDC’s Entrepreneurship 101 offerings in South Jersey.  While they are learning the ins and outs of starting a small business, fledging entrepreneurs are exposed to the many services and amenities offered in the Business Development Center.

UCEDC also offers a wide variety of workshops at the Center, giving tenants and community business owners access to free training in key business principles, such as pricing, marketing, and financial management.  The combination of the Center’s deep ties into the community and UCEDC’s broad training expertise is a winner for small businesses throughout the region!

Rave Reviews

The world of government contracting can seem overwhelming to even the savviest business owner and that’s where our Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) comes in.  Our team has been helping small businesses get millions of dollars in government contracts, year in and year out.  Along the way, they’ve garnered kudos from its funding agency, the US Department of Defense (DOD) and small business clients alike.handshake small_0

In its 2012 operational review by the DOD, UCEDC’s PTAC received among the highest rankings in the country.  But more importantly, clients couldn’t say enough about the help and support they received from the PTAC team.

Many were grateful for the help in deciphering a confusing system: “Wow, I just wanted to express my sincerest thanks and gratitude for all of your help today!!! Your knowledge of what I have found to be a confusing process was made simple and doable with the way you explained and laid out the procedure.”

Others appreciated the personal attention and support:  “Thank you for making me feel so comfortable at yesterday’s government contracting information event.   Your supportive and encouraging nature made it much easier for me to speak up and to network during the introduction portion of the program.”

Dedicated to Service

When UCEDC purchased its new headquarters in Cranford, it fulfilled the long-sought goal of its Board and senior leadership to build equity for the corporation and contribute to its sustainability.  This important step in UCEDC’s continuing growth was made possible by the hard work and dedication of scores of volunteer Board members over the years since UCEDC’s inception in 1977.  But when it came time to consider naming the building after someone who exemplified UCEDC’s mission and service, one name rose to the top:  Bob Katz.

Maureen Tinen and our honoree, Bob Katz
Maureen Tinen and our honoree, Bob Katz

Bob, owner of Universal Vending Management in Westfield, has served on the UCEDC board for over 25 years, chairing or serving on almost every committee.  Over the years, he’s been a trusted sounding board and encouraging mentor to UCEDC President Maureen Tinen and the rest of the staff.  In her remarks during our December building dedication, Maureen recalled a quote she had recently heard because it fit Bob’s service and dedication so closely:  “the work you do is not just good—it is noble, because it has the power to lift up people and communities and help them build a better life.”

We are honored to call the Robert L. Katz Building our new home.