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Four new initiatives will support businesses in Syracuse's Near Westside

June 24, 2010

Jemeli Tanui
(315) 443-5172

Business owners and emerging entrepreneurs in Syracuse’s Near Westside neighborhood will soon enjoy comprehensive initiatives aimed at boosting growth and encouraging new business development. The initiatives—which include the creation of a micro-lending program, formation of a business association, a peer mentoring program and an entrepreneurship training program—are the result of recommendations from the Near Westside Initiative’s Small Business Development Committee.

The Small Business Development Committee was formed after the Near Westside Initiative (NWSI) commissioned a 2009 street-by-street survey and analysis of all business in the neighborhood.

“Thanks to the hard work of Michael Short, who conducted the survey and is now a Syracuse University Engagement Fellow with the Near Westside Initiative, many of the needs of local businesses were brought to light,” says Maarten Jacobs, director of the Near Westside Initiative. “With this data, the committee has been able to create a system to provide resources to help the existing businesses expand and encourage new ventures to form.”

As an Engagement Fellow—beneficiary of a program initiated by SU in 2009 to retain bright new graduates in the Syracuse area by partnering them with local businesses and nonprofits and supporting them with University resources—Short works as deputy director of the NWSI. “It’s very important to us that our projects are for local businesses by local businesses, which is why all of our initiatives are the product of a mutually beneficial collaboration with neighborhood business owners,” says Short, who authored the neighborhood business development strategy.

The information gathered from the survey is available online at There are about 140 businesses in the neighborhood.

The new business initiatives will include:

  • The Near Westside Business Association—Based on the business survey, a need for a cohesive group to help unify the businesses in the neighborhood to better serve the needs of individual and collective businesses was identified. The new association will allow the business community to engage in cross promotion and joint advertising, as well as provide a forum where strategic partnerships can be nurtured and community resources shared. Several business owners will meet to establish a Near Westside Business Association July 6 at 6 p.m. at Stressdesign, located in the RockWest Center, 1001 W. Fayette Street. All neighborhood business owners and entrepreneurs are welcome to attend.
  • Micro-lending program—The NWSI is also in the process of developing a self-sustaining micro-loan program for emerging entrepreneurs and existing businesses. The initiative is working with local nonprofits and private organizations to secure funding that will serve as guarantees for the small business loans.
  • Entrepreneurship Program—Business owners and new entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to enroll in an entrepreneurship program to help learn more about ways to improve their business or launch a new venture. The NWSI has partnered with the South Side Innovation Center and Onondaga Community College’s Small Business Development Center to provide entrepreneurial expertise for businesses in the program.
  • Peer Mentoring Program—Up-and-coming entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to work with more established business owners through a business peer mentoring program.
  • Online Support and Outreach—The NWSI will dedicate a section of its website to the new business association. The page will include resources for businesses, including a commercial property database and an entrepreneurship section.

The NWSI will also serve as a conduit for potential investors and residents interested in relocating or setting up businesses in the Near Westside neighborhood.

These comprehensive initiatives will work with existing programs where elements of the proposed NWS business plans have already shown successful results. The entrepreneurship and micro-lending portions of the program, for example, will be modeled after the South Side Innovation Center—which already operates a successful micro-business incubator program. Bob Herz, SSIC director and also a member of the NWSI’s Small Business Development Committee, says the SSIC will work directly with any new entrepreneurs from the Near Westside. The model used by SSIC includes nurturing entrepreneurs from the very beginning through a discovery process in which each individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses are identified. The model also follows steps to play up the strengths and shore up entrepreneurs’ weaknesses through credit repair, computer literacy or market research, and ends with helping entrepreneurs secure the micro-loan and start their business.

“The model works whether you are in business for a while or brand new,” says Herz. “We do the front end of the loaning because by the time we are ready to launch the business, we know the clients really well.”

The entrepreneurial training program will also work with OCC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has been assisting start-up and existing businesses since 1984. The SBDC staff advises business owners and start-ups in areas including business plan development, organization structures, exporting, cost analysis, marketing, financial marketing, financial strategies, business expansion and research. The SBDC aims to help business owners in their program make the most informed decisions relating to their businesses to help promote stability and growth as well as increase productivity and profitability. The New York SBDC is one of only a few SBDCs in the United States with a full-time business library with free services for New York SBDC clients.

“The SBDC is pleased to partner with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Near Westside neighborhood,” says Patricia Higgins, regional director of the Onondaga SBDC. “In addition to training and advisement, the SBDC has access to the SUNY Research Network. For a business owner, obtaining the right information is as important as finding the right location, or getting the best price.”

For more information on the SBDC, visit

“I think it’s important for Near Westside companies to have a resource for business development,” says Marc Stress, owner of Stressdesign, host of the proposed business association’s inaugural meeting. “I think working together is better than work alone because there are going to be many opportunities for business-to-business collaboration and for business leaders to share what they’ve learned with each other.”

For more information on the new initiatives, contact Short at (315) 443-5402 or

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