Mario Tommolillo, owner of Mario’s Classic Auto Body, Paterson, summed up why the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers network needs legislative support.
“I’m an Italian immigrant with a high school diploma. I am living the American dream,” he said crediting the NJSBDC network for his success and urging legislators to advocate for the network.
He made his remarks during the Annual Small Business Growth Success Awards Luncheon Dec. 5 at the Forsgate Country Club, here, during which 13 business recipients were honored for their commitment, passion and success working with the NJSBDC network.
And the legislators in attendance couldn’t have agreed more.
Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham (parts of Hudson County), who is the majority whip said she is “fighting for (NJSBDC) all the way.”
Sen. Linda R. Greenstein (parts of Middlesex and Mercer counties), assured the several hundred in attendance that NJSBDC “is the organization that represents you, small business.” She added that the entire Senate Budget Committee knows how important the SBDC is to the state’s economy.
The network, just last year, had 644 clients start a new business and assisted in small businesses being able to create 2,191 jobs and retain 14,288 positions.
Other legislators who received “Business Advocate” Awards included Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (parts of Morris, Somerset counties) and Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer (parts of Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean counties). They expressed equal support of the NJSBDC network’s mission in prepared statements. Assemblyman Ron Dancer was not present, but, Assemblyman Samuel Fiocchi (Cape May County, parts of Atlantic and Cumberland counties) traveled all the way from Vineland, NJ to accept an award on behalf of Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, who was out of town for a legislative conference. As a small business owner himself, Fiocchi who serves on the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and Regulatory and Oversight Committee voiced his support for the NJSBDC program, saying it provided needed assistance for small businesses.
And the NJSBDC network thanked members of the media who wrote fair and objective stories and supported them editorially, Keith Ryzewicz, of the Courier News, Home News Tribune and Daily Record, Kevin Post of The Press of Atlantic City and Kevin McArdle of Townsquare New Jersey 101.5 radio, especially at critical junctures in the life of the network during state budget considerations. McArdle accepted his award in-person and acknowledged the network’s impact, relaying the story of meeting COO/Associate State Director Deborah Smarth in the halls of the State House and learning about the program’s economic impact. He said “That was an impressive luncheon and I was thrilled to be included.”
Several speakers said the passion of Deborah Smarth, NJSBDC COO/Associate State Director in making arguments advancing the cause of small business resulted in real gains. They thanked the CEO/State Director Brenda Hopper and Smarth for their collaborative efforts to publicize and grow the program for the good of small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Smarth told the crowd, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t Ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Then, she said each of the awardees acted and defined themselves, calling on the audience to applaud them for their great accomplishments.
Hopper acknowledged the support of the Small Business Administration and said the NJSBDC could not do what it does without their support.
“They are our funding partner,” she said, noting the organization is critical to the NJSBDC. She also acknowledged Rutgers University and Rutgers Business School for hosting their headquarters as well as thanking PNC Bank and PSE&G as financial sponsors of the event.
As each of the 13 recipients was lauded, they spoke of the guidance, counseling, knowledge and expertise of the NJSBDC.
“The reality is I want to make it explode and I meet somebody [SBDC] to direct me and show me the way. It humbles me,” said Jonathan Wilner, President/CEO of A. Harrington Limousine Service, Inc. “After 26 years of doing it the wrong way, now I can do it the right way.”
The 13 Success Awards Winners are:
Al Titone, director of the SBA New Jersey District Office and Kellie LeDet, regional administrator of SBA’s Region II (NY, NJ, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands), participated in the program.
The NJSBDC network consists of 12 centers statewide; the organization counseled more than 5,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs, sponsored almost a thousand training sessions statewide and helped its clients create and retain more than 16,000 jobs in the state during calendar year 2013.