Goldman Sachs-CCP program benefits small businesses

Michael Brown (center) praises the program's effect. With him are employee Matt Rispo (left) and Rich Podulka of United American Builders. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Michael Brown (center) praises the program's effect. With him are employee Matt Rispo (left) and Rich Podulka of United American Builders. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer
Posted: March 14, 2014

When he was first approached about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, Michael Brown was a little skeptical.

After all, he already had an MBA from St. Joseph's University and was busy running his own company, Environmental Construction Services Inc. Just how much could he learn from a 12-week program offered free by the investment giant?

A lot, it seems.

Six months after completing the program at Community College of Philadelphia, Brown credits the knowledge gained with helping to expand his business from four to 32 full-time employees and quadruple his annual revenue.

"I like to say St. Joe's taught me how to run someone else's business," he said this week. "Goldman Sachs taught me how to run my own."

Brown was among the first local business people to sign on to the $500 million nationwide program after Goldman Sachs, at Mayor Nutter's insistence, expanded it to Philadelphia in January last year.

Goldman Sachs has invested $20 million here. Of that, $10 million is for loans to small businesses, made through the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC). An additional $5 million over five years is to provide free classroom education to selected business owners through CCP. Another $5 million would go to Lancaster-based Community First Fund.

According to PIDC president John Grady, the loan program has so far provided about $2.3 million to seven local businesses. Another seven loans worth about $2.4 million are in the works, he said.

The education program, developed by Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is considered intense, typically involving 100 hours of course work. Geared toward those already in the thick of operating a business, the modules include understanding financial statements, human resources, leadership, marketing, and operations.

So far, 50 local small-business people have graduated from the program. A reception is scheduled Thursday night to honor 30 more who will have completed the effort.

"They go through a fairly rigorous process, which must be painful for people not used to being back in school," said Alan Greenberger, Philadelphia's deputy mayor for economic development. "They get a lot of good, practical information that most business people acquire over a lifetime. They get it in 12 weeks."

Brown offered an example that benefited him: In one role-playing exercise, he became a banker who had to assess a loan-seeker's request for funds.

"I learned the power of simplicity," said Brown, who had previously put together a loan proposal of his own that ran more than 100 pages. He pared that application down and secured a $400,000 line of credit.

In a roundabout way, CCP has benefited as well, according to Judith Gay, its president.

The program is taught by the college's faculty members, who receive their own extensive training from Babson. Lessons learned are then incorporated into courses taught at the college.

"This was a great opportunity for our faculty to acquire some new kinds of techniques for engaging learners in education," Gay said.



Amount Goldman Sachs invested in Phila. region out of a $500 million nationwide program.


Amount of the

$20 million that

is designated

for loans to area small businesses.


Length in weeks of the free educational program (about 100 hours of course work) supported by

Goldman Sachs.


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