By Rebecca Henely
Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is putting $500 million into improving the fortunes of small businesses across the country and 23 small business owners in Queens, Brooklyn and across New York state were the first to benefit.
Last week owners of businesses ranging from a courier service in Corona to a construction consulting firm in White Plains, N.Y., and a café in East Harlem graduated from a 10-week program held at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City in conjunction with Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses.
Speakers at the ceremony included Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs, also addressed the class.
“People, when they see successes here, they’ll be inspired to succeed all around the country,” said Buffett, one of the richest men in America.
Alicia Glen, managing director at Goldman Sachs, said 10,000 Small Businesses is a five-year program aimed at helping existing small businesses in underserved areas across the country grow through providing business education, networking opportunities and mentoring. It will also teach small businesses how to raise capital and find sources of funding.
Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s power houses, had an earlier program, 10,000 Women. for underserved women across the world.
“America won’t succeed unless we make our market system work for everyone,” said Dr. Michael Porter, a Harvard University professor and co-chairman of the program’s advisory council.
The 10-week seminar at LaGuardia is part of the business education side of the Small Business initiative.
“As opposed to going to a business school and learning broad principles, this is a very small, very tailored program,” Glen said.
She said the sessions at LaGuardia were a pilot for the program overall. The same program has already been launched at two community colleges in Los Angeles, and Goldman Sachs will identify other cities to introduce the program over the next couple of years.
William Sanchez of the Long Island City-based graphics company Technical Digital Services, was a student and one of the keynote speakers at the event. He said the classes, which took place every other Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., were well-structured and taught him how to expand his business.
“I actually know where my company needs to be and how to get there,” Sanchez said.
Rosalie Safier of National Van Equipment Co. Inc. in Long Island City also said the program was a wonderful opportunity.
“I think that it has just made me more optimistic about my company’s future and a lot more confident,” she said.
Blankfein told the class that their success was worth the $500 million investment.
“This group of graduates and what they’ve accomplished give us all the incentive we need,” Blankfein said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.