CHATHAM–United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and federal Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet toured Chatham Brewing on Main Street in the village Friday, July 25. Their tour guide and host for the event was Tom Crowell, co-owner of the brewery.
Following the late afternoon tour, Senator Gillibrand and Ms. Contreras-Sweet led a roundtable conversation with several business owners from the region and bank representatives on helping local businesses access financing and support.
Ms. Contreras-Sweet said that she was interested in hearing how the Small Business Administration (SBA) was helping the local businesses. “That’s what we’re here to learn about, how we can do our business better,” she said.
“Fed Ex started with a SBA loan. Ben and Jerry’s started with a SBA loan,” she told the panel of more than 20 people. Though there are many successful companies started with SBA loans, she said it was important to get the information out about the loans as an option not just for starting a business but for helping companies already operating.
She also said that there are business centers that can help guide local for-profit businesses in the area. “What SBA wants to do is be full service,” Senator Gillibrand told the panel, adding that she has been taking Ms. Contreras-Sweet around the state to look at local businesses.
The senator said she was happy to be home, having lived in Greenport for many years when she represented the county in House of Representatives.
Martha Lane, the business development specialist for the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, said that she helps administers SBA funds for the county. She told the panel, “We do have money to lend.” She also pointed out that many organizations at the table have received SBA loans.
Judy Grunberg, president of PS21, asked about loans for not-for-profits. Ms. Contreras-Sweet said that SBA loans only go to for-profit businesses.
Ken Blass of Blass Communications in Old Chatham said that he appreciated the SBA newsletter. “It’s not just money, but information,” he said of the SBA.
“We are looking for every tool that we can to grow the economy,” said Ms. Contreras-Sweet.
Representatives from most of the companies on the panel that have received SBA loans said they’d had a good experience working with agency. Mr. Crowell, whose brewery received SBA money, said he that he and his co-owner appreciated how quickly the money was available for the loan. Ms. Contreras-Sweet said they federal government pays out in 15 days.
The meeting lasted about half an hour, concluding so that Ms. Contreras-Sweet could catch a flight. But Senator Gillibrand stayed behind to talked to constituents and pick up a growler of beer from the brewery. Members of the Chatham and County Democratic Party committees attended along with Village Trustee Lenore Packett and several staffers from the offices of both Senator Gillibrand and Administrator Contreras-Sweet.
Among those sitting on the panel was president of the Chatham Area Business Alliance Tom Chulak, representatives from local businesses, including MetzWood Harder Insurance. David Rowley from Monkshook Nursery in Stuyvesant sat on the panel and provided tomatoes for the event. A representative from Sloop Brewery attended saying that the company was moving from Poughkeepsie to Elizaville. Representatives from Key Bank and Kinderhook Bank also participated, as well as F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth in Albany.
To contact Sen. Gillibrand call her Albany office, 518 431-0120 or go to www.gillibrand.senate.gov.
The upstate New York office of SBA is in Syracuse. Call 315 471-9393 or go to www.sba.gov.
The Columbia Economic Development Corporation is online at www.columbiaedc.com or by phone at 518 828-4718.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .