Dhiren Shah: Welcome to this interview, Mr. Seawright. When did the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation come into existence?
Kevin Seawright: The Newark Community EDC started last year. We moved over to a new corporation, formerly known as Brick City Development Corp. We are looking at a citywide development plan. Our number one goal is to help small businesses throughout the community. Not just downtown, but also moving uptown. We target small businesses, whether it's markets, clothing stores. We've also even got into the jewelry business. We're doing small business loans. We don't do grant funding for small businesses at the moment.
DS: Why is it now the Newark CEDC instead of Brick City Development Corp.?
KS: It was rebranded. We're having a lot more community focus too. We are changing the structure, with a farther reach.
DS: How long have you worked with the Newark CEDC, and what are the responsibilities that come with your job?
KS: I am the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer here. I have worked here since September 2014. It's been a fun ride.
DS: Starting a new business is hard. How can Newark CEDC help a business owner start off on the right foot?
KS: Our doors are open. We have our own loan specialist at this point. She is Lexie Demirali and she can be reached at 973-273-1040. Lexie works with any business that comes in. We try to help them understand their financials, tax and credit reporting. We try to explain where their status is and how close they are to actually opening a new business. If all that is successful, we look to give them loans. At the end of the day we want small businesses to be able to move forward and be fruitful. Our goal is to transition small businesses to a higher threshold.
DS: How does the Newark CEDC help businesses get funding?
KS: We do have partners. We use other EDCs and some banks that are active in Newark. We work diligently with the SBA.
DS: What is the advantage for minority owned businesses and women's owned minority businesses?
KS: We think all businesses are important. If anybody comes to Newark with a good small business plan, we'll support them. We do not code it to just woman owned or minority owned. If it's a good business plan, we want to be able to support it.
DS: Is it for Newark residents only?
KS: The business has to be in Newark. Any business that wants to work with Newark CEDC must be a Newark business.
DS: What do you feel is Newark's best asset in regards to Newark CEDC helping the city to be a strong center for business growth?
KS: Our biggest asset is our staff here that is out in the community. We have two people dedicated to each ward to help small businesses come in, have new ideas, and be a part of the community. Helping the community as a whole is our number one priority. One night a week, we have an incubator class. It's a small business development course, at the end of 12 weeks they graduate, and last time we gave a grant for $500 for each person completed the course. We help look for a building and a space (a kiosk) for them.
DS: When you mention loans, what is the amount of the loan, minimum and maximum?
KS: We are comfortable offering a $25,000 loan for small business. Anything over $25,000 we are looking to partner with our other financial institutions, whether banks or other economic development corporations. We charge very reasonable interest rates on the loans.
DS: What do you see as a major disadvantage for Newark's businesses going forward?
KS: I don't see any disadvantage. We see the city striving. We are here to help the city move forward and grow. We see the city as an oyster. We don't see any disadvantages in opening a business here right now. We have space, we have the staff and we're huge partners with the mayor to keep the city moving forward. We see city again as an oyster, ready to shine.
DS: What do you feel is most important for a business to succeed?
KS: I think this agency is important to help with financial stability, and training for businesses to have financial stability. The biggest function that we have is showing a business how to be successful. We can help you open up, but I think if we only concentrate on helping you open up, then we're failing. We need to show you how to be successful in your business. That's from paperwork to employee taxes to business taxes to financial reporting.
DS: What is a common mistake that businesses, new and existing, need to avoid?
KS: Taxes, that's a big thing; not filing business taxes timely, or accurately. I would also say credit is a very strong point. We would like all of our candidates asking for a loan to have a credit score of 650 or higher. Credit should be taken seriously.
DS: How many new businesses came to Newark since the inception of your corporation?
KS: Since Newark CEDC's inception, 53 new businesses were assisted by us and resulted in 88 new hires.
DS: Is there one aspect that we did not go over that you would like to inform people about, regarding your work?
KS: You're only as good as your team. As Senior Vice President, I'm only as good as the people who surround me. We have a very good team. Accountants and loan personnel are out there helping the community. We have two people allotted to each ward; that is great for the community. It gives the community a voice in business. You can look up and down Market Street and see all the new businesses. People can visit our website www.newarkcedc.org.
DS: Thank you very much for your time.