03.07.2011 – City Aids Entrepreneurial Immigrants – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

City aids entrepreneurial immigrants

New York City to start offering its free small business courses in Chinese, Korean and Russian; Latino and Asian immigrants startups grew the fastest, one study shows.

By Benjamin J. Spencer
March 7, 2011 12:05 p.m.
Entrepreneurial immigrants will soon be able to take the city’s free small business courses in Chinese, Korean and Russian, thanks to a new city initiative unveiled last week.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the plan as part of three new programs aimed at aiding New York’s immigrant entrepreneurs. The Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, in conjunction with the city’s Economic Development Corp. and Department of Small Business Services, are funding the programs.

The language component will begin “immediately” with the creation of a pilot program to translate the city’s free small business courses into Chinese, Korean, and Russian, according to EDC spokesman Kyle Sklerov. Existing Spanish language courses will also be expanded.

The initiative represents a step forward for immigrant businesses, according to Yanki Tshering, executive director of the Business Center for New Americans, a New York City-based nonprofit that aids immigrant entrepreneurs.

“It’s definitely been a long time in coming,” said Ms. Tshering. Historically, she said, there has been “a lack of awareness of the need for support for immigrant business, especially considering how progressive New York City is and the high number of immigrants that are here.”

The mayor’s actions come at a time when the percentage of new immigrant entrepreneurs soared nationwide. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, which tracks monthly business creation, found that for 2010, an average of 620 out of 100,000 immigrants, or 0.6%, started a new business monthly, compared to only 280 out of 100,000, or 0.3%, for native-born citizens.

That gap is widening. While business creation by immigrants rose sharply from 2009 to 2010, the rate started native-born Americans dropped. The index culled data from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to come up with the figures.

Latino and Asian immigrant business startups grew the fastest, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

“The mayor is committed to these groups,” Mr. Sklerov said. “They will be a huge part of New York’s future.” Mr. Sklerov cited a 2007 Center for an Urban Future study finding that even back in 2000, immigrants made up 49% of all self-employed workers in the city. 2010 U.S. Census statistics won’t be available until later this year.

Despite their role in the local small business community, immigrants in NYC face daunting barriers, such as access to credit, Mr. Sklerov said. The city and the Deutsche Bank foundation will split the costs for a competition that will award $25,000 each to five city nonprofits that create plans to aid immigrant entrepreneurs. The nonprofit deemed to have the best plan to promote immigrant startups at the end of a pilot period will be awarded an additional $100,000.

Mr. Sklerov said the city will begin accepting plan submissions from nonprofits sometime this summer and will pick the ultimate winner by next year. The main requirement of a good plan, he said, will be inclusiveness. “We live in a large city,” he said. “We’re looking for something that’s going to work for immigrants everywhere in New York.”

The Economic Development Corp. and Department of Small Business Services are working with Baruch College, the Pratt Center for Community Development and the South Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp. to plan a business expo for local immigrant-run food manufacturing businesses. Baruch College’s Newman Conference Center in Manhattan will host the expo on May 25.

Ms. Tshering said the Business Center for New Americans was “very excited” about the initiatives. “We will definitely participate in the competition,” she said, noting that Deutsche Bank representatives keen on funding immigrant business had already contacted her organization.

The biggest step forward in the initiatives will be to give immigrant business owners more access to information, Ms. Tschering said. “And I think the mayor sincerely means that.”


01.11.2011 – City Officials Brace for Blizzard, the Sequel – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

City officials brace for blizzard, the sequel

Less than two weeks after a massive snow storm dumped 20 inches of powder on New York City and paralyzed most transportation, city officials are assuring residents that Tuesday night’s storm won’t be a repeat performance.

By Benjamin J. Spencer

Photo by Buck Ennis
The National Weather Service has forecast that Tuesday night’s winter storm may dump as much as 14 inches of fresh snow on the New York metro area by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Published: January 11, 2011 – 3:48 pm
City transit officials said they were working hard to prevent stranded trains and buses in the metro area as another snow storm bears down on the East Coast, but they also counseled residents to be patient.“It will be a long night,” said Jay Walder, chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He noted that morning express train service will likely face disruptions because several rescue, de-icer, blower and scraper trains will be stationed on available underground tracks.

The National Weather Service has forecast that Tuesday night’s winter storm may dump as much as 14 inches of fresh snow on the New York metro area by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“It’s a tough storm because it’s coming in late,” said Helena Williams, president of the Long Island Rail Road.

The commissioners share one goal: avoiding stuck trains and suspending as few services as possible. But NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast said a lot depends on the type of storm this front brings. Blowing or drifting snow and a heavy rate of accumulation on the third rail could affect trains’ ability to move along the electrified tracks and doom efforts to move stranded passengers with rescue trains, he said.

“In the 13-inch range, you may have to have suspensions,” he said.

Mr. Walder said that for this storm, the other agencies of MTA are setting up so-called “Incident Command Centers” where emergency storm efforts will be coordinated.

These command centers are put up specifically in the event of an extreme event or emergency, and will be “a focal point for every operating department” in the MTA, said spokesman Salvatore Arena.

The strategy is borrowed from a procedure LIRR has followed for about a year, Mr. Arena said. LIRR typically commandeers their agency president’s conference room for their center, but he doesn’t know exactly where the other agencies will set up theirs.

The MTA has also borrowed another LIRR program by installing a designated “customer advocate” in every agency’s Incident Command Center, said Mr. Prendergast.

“The advocate is not going to have direct communication with passengers on the train. They’re not miracle workers,” Mr. Arena said
Rather, the advocate’s job will be to coordinate efforts focused on stranded riders: providing supplies or food, attempting to reach passengers through outside workers, and making sure people are not attempting to exit the train into an unsafe situation.

“They didn’t have that in a formal way before,” Mr. Arena said.

For the Long Island Rail Road, Ms. Williams said diesel engines will be standing by to assist stuck trains, and the rail road will also station 50 workers at the busy Jamaica, Queens, interchange. Overall, 600 LIRR employees are slated to work through the storm. “We’ve had a great response from employees for this one,” Ms. Williams said.

Also on Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city would inform parents of school closures by 5 a.m. Wednesday through the 311 hotline and on city websites. He cautioned of a difficult commute on Wednesday and told residents, “Do not drive if you can help it.”

In the wake of the post-Christmas blizzard that dumped upward of 20 inches on the city and paralyzed most transportation, Mr. Bloomberg on Monday laid out a 15-point plan for handling future snowstorms. The plan included several new measures designed to prevent many of the communication and emergency system problems that hampered efforts during the last storm. Mr. Bloomberg dismissed any notion that the city may have resisted buying necessary equipment because of budget cuts.

He also countered charges of a lack of empathy and availability during the storm. “When things go wrong, you can never have enough empathy,” he said. “We didn’t do as good a job as we should have.”

In response to complaints about his being on vacation, he responded: “The mayor is in charge, and the mayor is in charge all the time,” he said. “I am not in every conference call, and I shouldn’t be.”

When pressed to detail what he himself could have done differently to deal with the last storm, Mr. Bloomberg brushed off the question. “Should have, would have and could have, I don’t know,” he said. “Next question.”

The expected snowstorm forced the postponement of the City Council’s oversight hearing on Walmart scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. It was rescheduled for Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. Opponents of Walmart’s entry into the city have also called off a rally they had scheduled for Wednesday.