Dean Balsamini, Director of the Small Business Development Center at the College of Staten Island (CSI-SBDC) was awarded the Paul Harris Award by Rotary International this past June. Balsamini, a former President of the South Shore Rotary, was presented the award for demonstrating “Service above Self” in life as well as work. The Harris Award is the highest honor presented by Rotary.
As it turns out, spring was a busy time of year for Mr. Balsamini who, along with working as Director for the CSI-SBDC on the CSI campus, also helped launch the CSI-SBDC Brooklyn Satellite location in May at the Sovereign Bank building in Bay Ridge.
The addition of the rest of New York’s 13th Congressional District, which includes all of Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Gravesend, doubles the CSI-SBDC footprint to approximately one million residents. “This is a natural progression,” said Balsamini. “Since many similarities exist between the economies in Staten Island and Brooklyn.” The expansion to Brooklyn will provide many more opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
CSI currently draws about 20 percent of its student population from Brooklyn. Also, the area in the representative district includes Fort Hamilton and the Veteran’s Hospital, which further strengthens the CSI-SBDC’s commitment to aiding veterans who wish to pursue careers in small business.
Balsamini, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, also called the expansion “exciting,” and added “it’s an opportunity to do some good things here.” He took the opportunity of visiting the Brooklyn Satellite’s office, located in the Sovereign Bank building on 95th Street in Bay Ridge, to take George Telmany, the satellite’s Business Adviser, on a tour through much of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. On the drive, they noticed how wildly the demographics shifted as they traveled through the various ethnic neighborhoods. “This is going to be a great challenge and significant opportunity to serve these diverse communities,” said Balsamini, taking note of the different ethnicities and small businesses that dotted the landscape.
Balsamini believes the Brooklyn satellite could generate more than 150 new clients annually, which would have as much as $2 million in economic impact and up to 150 new or saved jobs.
The initial focus of the Brooklyn satellite is to create an awareness of the SBCD services and maintain relationships with community boards, business leaders, and key stakeholders within the business community. The representatives of CSI-SBDC recently took part in several town hall meetings with Congressman Michael Grimm and Senator Martin J. Golden. They have also participated in meetings with the 3rd Avenue Merchant’s Association and the Brooklyn Job Fair. “Right now,” said Balsamini, “we are in the process of establishing points of contact, partnering with key people, and providing educational workshops and seminars, in addition to individual business counseling.”
Having witnessed the changes that Brooklyn has undergone firsthand, Balsamini understands which difficulties exist in starting or maintaining a small business in Brooklyn. “The key is understanding the diversity of the area and the needs of the local community.”
The CSI-SBDC is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to helping area small businesses by offering counseling, workshops, and seminars to help entrepreneurs better plan and succeed in making their dreams become reality. The SBDC’s dedicated advisers help potential clients in every facet of business planning from cash flow analysis to business plans and marketing. The service is free but their expertise is invaluable to anyone hoping to open or maintain a small business.