Three members of the state Assembly, including Atlantic County's Vince Mazzeo, have introduced a bill to create a Small Business Action Center within the N.J. Economic Development Authority.
If that name sounds familiar, perhaps it's the similarity to the Small Business Development Center, which operates under the auspices of Stockton University out of the school's Carnegie Center in Atlantic City.
The local center is one of 12 N.J. Small Business Development Centers operated through a state/federal partnership, with funding from the federal Small Business Administration and the state.
The likeness of the longtime small business network and the proposed center goes well beyond the names. A new Small Business Action Center would encourage the success of more or less the same small businesses in the state, those with fewer than 50 employees. It would also do that in mostly the same ways.
The bill calls for the new center to "provide information to small businesses." The existing centers are all about informing and training those who wish to start a business or to grow an existing small business.
The bill specifies that information would be provided on business financing, taxes, incentives, and government approvals and regulations. The NJSBDC already offers all of that.
The proposed center would also inform small businesses about government-funded projects in New Jersey that need small-business services. The NJSBDC does that too, and so does the N.J. Institute of Technology's Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which regularly offers free workshops on government contract opportunities and procedures.
Just last October, the federal SBA started a push through the existing centers to get small businesses more federal government contracting work. Among the nearly 50 cities in the state targeted for preferential access to such work were Atlantic City, Pleasantville, Cape May, Bridgeton and Millville.
Maybe the real reason for the new center is a provision tucked into the bill that would provide up to two years of Economic Development Authority tax credits for small businesses. These look like they would be tiny versions of the massive incentives and credits doled out by the EDA, often to politically connected businesses.
EDA incentives have been used this year to take existing work out of this economically struggling region and relocate it in Camden. First a $5.9 million grant for successful child-care programs was pulled from Atlantic and Cape May counties, and then Ginsburg Bakery was lured away from Atlantic City.
Instead of adding another layer of politically influenced handouts to companies, the state should rein in EDA spending and restore the $750,000 cut from the N.J. Small Business Development Centers. That would help all small business more than this new proposal.