If you don’t know about Empire State Development, or ESD, you should. With its mission “to promote a vigorous and growing state economy,” ESD works to ensure the efficient use of loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing, and other forms of assistance. This helps encourage business investment, business growth, and job creation so that local economies across New York State grow and prosper.
NextCorps recently spoke with Laura Fox O’Sullivan, ESD’s new Finger Lakes Regional Director, to find out specifically how ESD helps entrepreneurs and businesses in our area.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about how ESD supports our community?
I think that many businesses are surprised to learn that we have venture capital assistance programs and that many economic development programs in the area are partially funded by ESD. Some examples of these include NextCorps, which of course administers the Luminate NY accelerator; the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture business competition; and Excell Partners, just to name a few.
Businesses are also surprised to learn that companies don’t need to have a “project” for ESD to assist them. We work with businesses to connect them with other agencies or funding programs, or even just help answer questions on permitting or industry regulations.
How does ESD help startups and small businesses in the Finger Lakes?
Growing businesses are always looking for funding. ESD invests in diverse entrepreneurs and high-growth companies to support New York’s innovation ecosystem. We have the successful ESD Venture Fund Program, as well as the New York State Small Business Credit Initiative. This program is supported through the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides funds to support programs for small businesses — including socially and economically disadvantaged individual-owned businesses and very small businesses — to help them recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. We also work closely with Excell Partners, which administers the Finger Lakes Forward Venture Fund among other programs. While not funded directly by ESD, the Small Business Development Centers that are located across the state are another support option available to companies.
What one piece of advice would you give founders working to scale and grow their businesses?
I would encourage them to reach out to the Finger Lakes Regional Office directly anytime that they need assistance, if they are looking to make investments and create jobs in NYS, or if they are facing challenges and jobs are at risk. The sooner we are able to engage with a company the better so that we can get the process moving. Even if they do not qualify for ESD assistance, we can connect companies with other economic development partners that can help.