By Elif Ozmenek
New York is like quicksand that can pull you down into the ground if you don’t know her, but if you know her, this city offers you endless opportunities.
So, how is it be possible to do business without getting lost in this city, which is on the privileged list of Turkish businessmen? We posed this question to Terry Jackson, General Manager of the New York City UN Commission for International Trade and Sister Cities Programs, Martha Soffer, Business Development Specialist for the Small Business Administration, and Nancy Ploger, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.
The answers were quite surprising. Because it is not well known that in a big, fast and sometimes cruel city like New York there are many services offered for those who want to do business, including assistance for legal procedures, loan adjustment, access to real estate providers and network establishment.
Those who are planning to do business in New York should first and foremost take a look at the New York City UN Commission – International Trade and Sister Cities Programs. As a division of the Office of the Mayor, this organization provides important services. Among these are many issues that a foreigner would find most difficult to surmount when establishing a business, such as interaction with federal and state agencies, access to appropriate bank institutions, or the advantages offered by insurance entities.
General Manager Terry Jackson states that they receive many phone calls from other countries as well as from Turkey and says that their department is open to all kinds of assistance and questions. It takes approximately one year to establish a business in New York, and to help with this process, they provide free-of-charge assistance to foreign businessmen with legal and financial issues.
“Foreign businessmen at the beginning find it difficult to understand how easily they could be sued in the USA,” says Mr. Jackson, “The lawyers of the Manhattan Bar provide a one hour free-of-charge orientation session about the main legal procedure in the business world to the businessmen that we send. Similarly, the tax issues are quite confusing for foreign businessmen. Many foreign businessmen neglect the taxes at the beginning. However, later this could become a big problem,” he adds.
For newly arriving foreign business people, one of the most important benefits of the program is that it constitutes a bridge among those who share the same sector. In the first stages, it is difficult to open a store in the city alone, as Mr. Jackson points out, and he encourages those from the same sector to establish joint businesses. “Industrial grouping is many times successful, while the companies preserve their individual identities. For example, purse exporters and shoe or leather product selling companies, that is to say the department stores that are jointly run by those from different branches of the same sector would be a first step for those who aim to grow in this city,” he says.
Mr. Jackson takes pains to point out that his office would provide assistance not only during the process of establishment but also as long as help is needed.. “For producing advertisements or finding qualified employees, and for many other issues, our program may continue to be a resource for businessmen,” he says. It is always better to keep in the network, he adds.
Mr. Jackson’s golden advice to those who would establish a business in New York is not to hurry to rent an office within the process of forming a company, which could take quite a long time; instead people should settle for a while for a jointly-used place that the department would help them to find, and which has the necessary equipment like telephone, fax and internet access.
The Small Business Administration, on the other hand, is supported by the Federal governement. It assists companies with fewer than 50 employees with three important issues: providing bank loans, one-to-one consultancy services and creating business plans.
The Business Development Specialist of the institution, Martha Soffer, states that they provide small and medium-sized enterprises with all kinds of support for survival in the first two years and says that the most difficult problem that the foreign businessmen have to face is finding loans. “For example, businessmen who don’t have green cards should have fixed properties in order to secure a mortgage. Such simple, yet important, issues are unknown to many people. If businessmen contact us as soon as they arrive in New York, their companies could grow faster,” she says.
Ms. Soffer says that generally they are able to provide financing up to 75 percent, yet there are two important prerequisites for this: to have a good profile of personal loans and due payment of federal taxes for two consecutive years.
One-to-one consultancy is essential when establishing a new business, Ms. Soffer points out, and they have Turkish-speaking consultants. “When businessmen are getting used to the system, they sometimes need consultancy in their own language,” adds Ms. Soffer. She also mentions that the Small Business Administration often calls on the assistance and expertise of professors in the business administration department of the state university.
$45 BILLION PORTFOLIO
The Small Businesses Administration was established in 1953, and with its $45 billion portfolio, today it is the biggest organization that provides support to businessmen in the USA. Only last year the administration provided $12.3 billion in loans to small businesses. The organization supports women and minorities in particular and in the recent years it has taken some important steps in the area of micro loans as well.
The Small Businesses Administration educates businessmen about new developments through the monthly activities it organizes, electronic bulletins and podcast programs. Business Specialist Martha Soffers golden advice to the businessmen -- always keep in touch with them, because after all, the service is free of charge.
In addition, another resource is the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (MCC), a non-profit organization which was established in 1920. Through the chamber’s international membership system, every year new networks are established among thousands of businessmen. Apart from being a part of such a network, MCC membership, which is approximately $100, offers the further advantages of discount participation in many conferences, activities and work shops.
President Nancy Ploger says, “If you want to be known on the global scale, New York is the right place!” and advises those who want to do business here to become a member of the MCC as a first step. 10 years ago the Chamber had 200 members; today this number is more than 100,000. In this respect, the MCC is an important networking platform.
In short, though it is one of the most difficult markets in the world, New York offers all kinds of assistance to facilitate the lives of foreign businessmen. Maybe this is the biggest success of this city. The rest of the story is familiar: “I dare to take you on, New York!”
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO DO BUSINESS IN NEW YORK
NY State (state.ny.us)
NY State Business Home Page (empire.state.ny.us)
NY State SBA Center (nyssbdc.org)
Small Business Administration (sba.gov/ny/ny)
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (http://manhattancc.org)
NYC UN Commission–International Trade and Sister Cities Programs nyc.gov/html/unccp/html/international_biz/main.shtml)
SMALL BUSINESS PROFILE: NEW YORK
Number of Businesses. The state had an estimated total of 1,891,900 small businesses based on the most recent data. Firms with employees numbered 486,228 in 2005, of which an estimated 99.1 percent or 481,852 were small firms (fewer than 500 employees).
Firms owned by women increased 28 percent between 1997 and 2002, from 394,014 to 505,134; they represented 29.6 percent of the state’s total businesses in 2002. These firms generated $71.4 billion in revenues in 2002.
In 2002, Asian-owned firms totaled 145,519 and generated $30.4 billion in receipts; Black-owned firms numbered 129,324 and generated $7.5 billion in receipts; and Hispanic-owned businesses totaled 163,639 and created $12.4 billion in receipts.
New employer businesses in 2005 were estimated at 62,045, which is 1.3 percent less than the previous year. Business bankruptcies decreased by 48.1 percent, to 2,112 in 2005, while business terminations decreased by 2.1 percent, to 62,667 during the same period.)
There were 429,772 employer firms with fewer than 500 employees in 2003; they provided 3,834,223 jobs in the state. These firms represented 99.1 percent of the employer businesses in the state.
Small Business Income
Non-farm proprietors’ income, which is a partial measure of small business income, increased by 6.3 percent to $77.0 billion in 2005.
Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employment and Training Administration; U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau; U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
(January 2007, 23rd Issue)