EDA board OKs new funding for small business bonding readiness assistance program

Working with African American and Hispanic chambers, program will grant $500,000 to help small businesses qualify for government contracts

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority board approved two contracts Wednesday, one with the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and one with the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, to administer the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program.

This program (which ROI-NJ wrote about extensively here) will provide small businesses with training and surety bonding education through a series of workshops and strategic consulting sessions designed to increase small businesses’ bonding knowledge and capacity.

Since the program was first launched in 2018, facilitated by a contract with the AACCNJ, 105 business owners have graduated from the program. Of those, 50 have qualified for a combined total of $40 million in government contracts.

The new phase of funding, approved Wednesday, will provide up to $250,000 to both the AACCNJ and the SHCCNJ to conduct a series of courses designed to enhance business practices in the following subject areas: accounting and financial presentation, operational efficiency, marketing, surety bonding capacity, construction and contract law, certification and financing. The collective goal of the program is to better position small businesses to qualify for surety bonding, and, as a result, more competitively bid on public works projects or perform contracts offered by the state or federal government.

Through the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program, both the AACCNJ and the SHCCNJ will graduate at least 60 small businesses from the program each year. Due to an increased appropriation, the program’s funding doubled, therefore allowing EDA to contract with an additional entity to ensure that more New Jersey small businesses have access to these free resources, services and tailored assistance.

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the program has had big impact.

“We have prioritized connecting businesses with the resources they need to persevere, grow and thrive,” he said. “The Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program is a testament to New Jersey’s commitment to ensuring that all businesses, especially minority- and women-owned businesses, have access to the tools necessary to remove barriers to entry while bidding on government contracts.”

John Harmon, the head of the AACCNJ, also was happy.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with the NJEDA and the (Gov. Phil) Murphy administration in their collective commitment to leveraging the ideals and resources provided through the AACCNJ to strengthen underperforming sectors of New Jersey’s economy,” he said. “As small businesses continue to drive our state’s post-COVID economic recovery, providing resources and information to Black-owned, women-owned and minority-owned businesses has never been more important. Through the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program, New Jersey is ensuring that all small businesses can compete in the state and federal contracting process in a more equitable and inclusive manner.”

Carlos Medina, head of the Hispanic Chamber, agreed.

“Empowering small businesses to participate in the surety bonding process is an essential step in removing barriers to entry for minority- and women-owned businesses that want to obtain state and federal contracts,” he said. “The Small Business Bonding Readiness Program is a tremendous asset for small businesses owners who are looking to succeed in today’s ever-changing economy.”

The AACCNJ and SHCCNJ were selected based on proposals submitted earlier this year in response to a Request for Proposals from qualified nonprofit business advocacy membership associations with demonstrated prior experience in contracting with other governmental or public entities to administer surety bonding support services.