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SBA program offers opportunities for urban businesses

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New Jersey's urban entrepreneurs can take advantage of a program sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration that will coach them on how to raise capital, then bring them to New York to pitch their businesses to bankers and investors.

The deadline is Oct. 19 for entrepreneurs to apply to the Inner City Capital Connections program, jointly sponsored by the SBA, Bank of America, Fortune magazine and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. This year, the ICCC expects to select 180 investment-ready companies nationwide to participate in the program, which begins with an Oct. 24 training workshop in Detroit and concludes Nov. 9, when participants will meet with lenders and investors in New York.

Al Titone, New Jersey district director for the SBA said, "The idea here is once they go through the training they will be better positioned to utilize the funding." Titone said a credit crunch is a perennial problem for urban businesses and has been exacerbated by the sluggish economy of the last few years, making it more difficult to get financing.

"When you have a successful business in the inner city, it is critical to the local community," Titone said. "It really keeps investment local."

To be eligible for the program, companies must be: based in, or have more than 50 percent of physical operations in an economically distressed urban area; and be a for-profit corporation, partnership or proprietorship with revenues of more than $2 million in 2011, or have 40 percent of their employees located in an economically distressed urban area. More than 1,500 companies were nominated for last year's ICCC program, with 171 accepted from various industries including technology, business services and manufacturing.

Since the launch of the ICCC program in 2005, participating companies have raised more than $406 million in capital.

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