FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK ...
These days, there's a lot of talk about saving businesses that are "too big to fail." But at City Hall, we think that our small businesses, which employ half of all New Yorkers who work in the private sector, are too important to be allowed to fail. We can't end the current recession on our own. But there's plenty we're doing to help small businesses and their employees weather the current economic storms.
Case in point: Workforce training. My own experience as a business owner taught me that workers who have the skills a changing economy demands give their employers a big competitive edge - and they also put themselves in the position to command higher wages. It's a win-win combination that we're now helping bring to small businesses in all five boroughs with our "NYC Business Solutions Training" grants. The funds go straight to the employers, who also put up money of their own. That way, the on-the-job training focuses on the skills that businesses really need.
A few days ago, for example, I visited Rucci Oil, a family-owned company that's been providing heating fuel and equipment for many years to homes and businesses on Staten Island. These days, they're also seeing a growing demand for supplying and servicing air conditioning and - because of the rollercoaster price of heating oil - natural gas heating equipment. So now, using a training grant, ten of its employees, who might otherwise have been laid off or employed only seasonally, are learning how to do that kind of work, too. The total cost of the training will come to less than $35,000 - an investment that will pay big returns, in more business and wages that are expected to climb by 20 percent for the workers involved.
The Department of Small Business Services, working with our Center for Economic Opportunity, has stepped up this training initiative as the economic slump has worsened. During the past 12 months alone, we've distributed some $3 million in grants, coupled with funds from more than 30 employers, for training nearly 2,000 workers. And using half a million additional emergency dollars from the State, we'll be able to expand these efforts even further in the coming months. It's just one of many strong steps we're taking to support small businesses and quicken our economic recovery. If you're a small business owner who wants to find out more about this initiative, visit the City's web site at nyc.gov or call 311 and ask about "Training Funds."
Before signing off this morning, I also want to highlight some good news about the young people who'll join our workforce over the next few years. Today, record numbers of public school graduates are entering the City University system's four-year colleges, even as admission qualifications have gotten tougher. Because we've also raised standards, and worked to close the racial achievement gap in City primary and secondary schools, more and more high school graduates - led by increasing numbers of Hispanic students - are now college-ready. And our investments in education, like our job retraining efforts, will pay off bigtime for everyone.