Senator DiZoglio now chairs the joint (Mass house and senate) committee on Community Development and Small Business. We have in the aggregate 65 small businesses located here at CI Works. Diana chose not to give a speech about her committee, but rather to actively listen to challenges that small businesses face in Massachusetts to obtain input on areas that the committee should focus on improving. When you provide an opportunity for small businesses to share their experiences and gaps that they see and would like to see improved upon, you get a wealth of valuable information. I cannot overemphasize the appreciation the businesses have that a state senator would come to them and listen to their experiences and their areas of need.
Topics covered in the conversation and brief synopses are as follows:
Inability for small businesses to access bank loans – in the current regulatory environment, loans are not available to early stage businesses. Small businesses live their existence in the middle of risk, yet banks choose to operate in risk free mode. This was identified by all in attendance as a gap – that the state should make efforts to fill.
Significant and successful role played by Mass Clean Energy Center – CEC has been instrumental in the clean energy sector in providing needed seed capital to early stage companies in advancing R & D in this sector. Additional capital is needed to advance companies from their Research activities – to product Development and to market, beyond what is available currently and where jobs would be created. In addition, the excellent work performed in clean energy should be expanded to other industry sectors in Massachusetts.
Mass Growth Capital Corp. – was present and spoke about their role in providing safety to bank loans provided to small businesses. Again, the matter of bank loans being inaccessible highlighted that MGCC really did not fill a gap, but rather operated in risk free space. Looking at making alternative financing options available to earlier stage companies was suggested. A possibility may be to focus upon prior successful grant execution accomplishments as a way to de-risk an investment.
Collaborative Working spaces where companies work together – was identified as being beneficial to participating companies in learning from others’ prior experience and leveraging existing resources across companies. These types of environments are favored by Sen DiZoglio and should be expanded in other parts of the state.
Job Creation – identified as a high priority and an area where the state should focus. This is in contrast to investing in research only that results in large companies benefitting from this supported research and then creating jobs in other states – keep the jobs in Massachusetts – and throughout Massachusetts.
Workforce Training Grant – was identified as a potential resource available for use in providing training to new and existing employees. The challenge identified is that for the early stage - 1 and 2 person companies, it is less applicable and the match funding requirement is beyond the means of companies at this stage.
Housing and Community Development – identified that an inadequate stock of affordable housing currently exists in areas of Massachusetts and needs to be greatly expanded to be a true work here / live here location for companies.
Reuse of existing construction – is an available resource in Massachusetts that may be underleveraged. Much has been converted to residential – but not focused in affordable residential for all workers. Existing construction already is in place and does not present significant environmental challenges as compared to new construction – and extensive capital costs.
Municipal Regulations – should be more favorable to small businesses and should also be more uniform across municipalities within the state in order to be more competitive with surrounding states.
It was a great opportunity for an open conversation with Sen. DiZoglio and hopefully provide meaningful and positive input to what goes on in Boston in the future.