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Small business center hopes to help struggling community

A new small business incubator is now open for business in the city of Fulton. Officials say entrepreneurship is the key to job creation in a community that’s lost thousands of good-paying jobs.

SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley cut the ribbon for a new temporary outreach office of SUNY Oswego’s Small Business Development Center, located in Fulton.

“We know that our economy is suffering,” said Stanley. “Certainly in the Fulton area, more than 2000 manufacturing jobs over the last 10 years. It’s incredible to think about small communities suffering in that way.”

But Stanley says she’s optimistic that the center’s focus on e-commerce will keep displaced workers here building a new economy.

 Within a 300 mile radius, there are 25 million people,” said Chena Tucker, who will serve as the center’s business advisor. “Here we are in Fulton. Is there a product you’d like to sell, or a service you’d like to provide? 25 million people is a great opportunity.”

Tucker says she hopes people who’ve just lost factory jobs at the recently closed Birds-Eye plant, will come through the doors.  But the center will give free business advising to anyone who wants it.

“They’re going to be able to come through the doors and get business advisement from me and during that time we’re hosting three different groups of 10 people each. They’ll have a desk and a laptop. We’ll be hosting workshops, we’ll be doing the training and we’ll also be helping after to help them build their online business and then all of the support things they’ll need for their business,” she said.

Jeff Grimshaw, Director of SUNY Oswego’s office of business and community relations, says that center assists hundreds of people starting businesses every year.

“Last year there was over $10 million in new business startups just through the SBDC at SUNY Oswego,” said Grimshaw. He says the Fulton center’s first class, on “what business would you like to start?” Had ten people enrolled.

“So 10 small businesses to start up in a community like Fulton, that’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful thing,” he said.

BJ Paprocki, Director of the Syracuse Small Business Administration district, pledged not only to work to keep the program going but to make it a model for supporting entrepreneurship throughout the 34-county district.

You’ve now opened up channels to receive help and information and resources and loans that are available throughout our entire network right here in Fulton New York.

SUNY Oswego’s Stanley says the $100,000 portable assistance grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration means this could be the first of a number of outreach centers.

“This is a portable program,” said Stanley. “Hopefully this program will transfer around to all the areas where it needs to exist.”

Capturing photos of the event was 28 year old Pete Foster, who is just starting his business through SUNY Oswego’s Micro-Enterprise program. Foster is opening Studio 160 photography studio in Fulton. He says the coursework and advice he got gave him an insider’s view of running a small business.

“You talk about in college when you’re an arts student composition, light, the finer aspects of creating art, but a lot of times they lack the business side,” he said.

Foster has high hopes that from this gig on, he’ll eventually expand his photo business throughout Central New York.

“Unfortunately, Fulton hasn’t had the best of times,” he said. But I grew up in this town, I know the area pretty well and I know there are some really great people here and some really great energy if it’s harnessed. And I’m really hoping I can take advantage of that and help keep Fulton beautiful.”