EDA, African American Chamber welcome first cohort in small business readiness program aimed at minority-, women-owned firms

Lori Matheus, senior vice president of finance and development at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, defines a stronger and fairer economy this way:

“(It) means making sure everyone has equal opportunities to bid for contracts and contribute to our state’s growth,” she said.

On Tuesday, state and association officials feel they took another step in that direction.

The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, in partnership with the EDA, welcomed the first class to participate in the new Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program.

The EDA said the training initiative is part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to build a stronger economy by preparing small, minority- and women-owned businesses to compete for state and federal government contracts.

“This program levels the playing field for many small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned businesses, that in the past may not have been able to bid on state and federal contracts because they did not have the ability to get bonded and access financing,” Matheus said.

On Tuesday night, small business owners and industry experts gathered in Bordentown for the first of 18 classroom trainings that are the core of the initiative. Over the course of the program, participants will take part in a comprehensive series of classroom trainings, workshops and strategic counseling sessions covering bonding and insurance, business development, financial presentation, construction and contract law, construction management, estimating, personal credit and business credit.

The 30 small business owners in this cohort represent a wide variety of small businesses, from contracting, painting and landscaping to custom computer programming, interior design and commercial photography. They come from diverse communities all around the state, including Jersey City, Princeton, Trenton, Camden and Long Branch.

The announcement of the partnership between the chamber and the EDA came in May, but John Harmon, CEO and president of the African American Chamber, told ROI-NJ the effort began two years ago.

“It goes back a ways,” Harmon said earlier this year. “It originally started with a meeting with Republican senators under the Christie administration. We met with them and they asked us what were some of our priorities. We said this was one of them.”

State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville) sponsored the bill, along with co-sponsor Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark), which Gov. Chris Christie eventually signed.

For more information on the Small Business Bonding Readiness Program, visit www.njeda.com/NJBonding.

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