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Growing Jobs: Assisting Entrepreneurs Leads to Solid Job Growth

There is ample evidence that the formation and growth of new businesses in the United States have a substantial impact on the job creation. Since researchers began reporting on this in the late 1970s, the findings have been refined, showing that new firms – not necessarily small firms – are the dominant source of net job growth (see pg. 30 of “Incubating Success,” by David A. Lewis, Elsie Harper-Anderson, and Lawrence A. Molnar, at http://j.mp/sv5Rmr).

The truth of this statement is demonstrated time and time again by companies residing in New Jersey Incubation Network incubators. Jobs creation begins with the fierce commitment and ambitious visions of incubator company founders like Jose “Joe” Rodriguez, founder of M.E.R.I.T. Investigative Services, Inc., located in the Enterprise Development Center at NJIT.

Prior to tapping into the resources of the business incubator, Rodriguez benefitted from government programs that acknowledge the wisdom of nurturing people with the desire and ability to launch new businesses. Rodriguez sought out the assistance of the Small Business Administration and learned about the 8A program, a set aside for minority businesses. He also applied for and received service-disabled status. In addition, his business was located in a Newark Hub Zone.

“I refer to this as a trifecta,” said Rodriguez. “Once I received the designations, the hiring agency would get credit for all three. I didn’t even have to bid on the set asides. So I was able to get a name for my company.”

The assistance was the boost that Rodriguez, a committed entrepreneur who worked 70-80 hours a week and networked extensively, needed. “Word got around that I was reliable and did good work. I’ve done work at the Statue of Liberty, Jockey Hollow, and the Thomas Edison Lab restoration. We get lots of work by word of mouth.”

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) came about, Rodriguez was ready. “That’s when we really hit our mark,” he said. “We were the first company in New Jersey to get a contract.” In all, he won six contracts through ARRA.

Since 2009, when he moved into the Enterprise Development Center at NJIT, Rodriguez has also benefited from being located in a business incubator. “Being in the incubator has helped a lot,” he said. “Being here provides a localized area. I can get to downtown New York a lot quicker, we have parking, a conference room, and the atmosphere here is conducive to an office. The services are great, and the people are awesome.”

He has also benefitted from the internal connections he has made at the incubator. He has tapped into several incubator companies who have worked as subcontractors for him, including Schmitt and Associates, a software solution provider; BanDeMar Networks LLC, a company specializing in advanced video solutions for e-learning markets; and Reva Construction Inc., a general contracting and construction company.

True to the research, Rodriguez’s company is adding jobs. He started out with three employees and now has 43. If a proposal for work with the United States Army Reserve goes forward, he’ll be hiring another 30 to 50 individuals. But the job creation goes beyond the number employed by his own business. “It’s also the subcontractors,” he said. “They are able to keep working and hire people to work for them. Right now that easily adds up to between one- and two-hundred people currently employed by our projects.”

Many of the jobs that Rodriguez has to offer are in security. If he is able to land the contract with the U.S. Army Reserve, the new employees will be contractor maintenance personnel, who will go out and inventory a huge amount of HVAC information for the federal government. The information will be recorded on his new Multiple Equipment Record Information Tracking (M.E.R.I.T.) system that Rodriguez’s company has developed.

Rodriguez makes every attempt to fill open positions with veterans. “They’re very near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I try to find them, work with them, train them, help them survive, and make a decent living. Currently we’re networking with as many veterans organizations as we can.”

Confirmed entrepreneurs often have multiple entrepreneurial ideas, and Rodriguez is no exception. In addition to his contracting business and M.E.R.I.T., Rodriguez is involved with City-Hydroponics, a company started by his wife, Sandra Rodriguez. Sandra Rodriguez established the company to provide a viable solution to the pressing dilemma of food shortages and high prices for mediocre quality produce here at home and around the world. “My wife and I feel that we need to work in any way that we can to maintain our environment,” said Rodriguez.

City-Hydroponics will offer a prototype where a 40,000-square-foot facility will be enough space to produce as much food as a 5-acre farm, year-round. The prototype, which could be established in any urban area, will be part of a much bigger project named “The Oasis Project,” which will include a training and employment center where they will train people―both entrepreneurs and workers― that will be needed in the urban farming industry. But first, they need to refine their system of vertical hydroponics, a process that is well underway at the Enterprise Development Center.

Currently, they are looking for veterans who can work on this new project and the City-Hydroponics prototype. “We need to feed the world, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put this together. It just takes commitment and people who are willing to learn a new industry. And that’s why we want to bring veterans on board,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez looks around his office and takes a deep breath of satisfaction. “I never thought I’d get this far,” he said. But with the support of federal and state programs and the nurturing environment of the business incubator, Rodriguez is poised for the type of success that can provide the key to long-term economic development for our state and our nation.

The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) is the world’s leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship. Each year, it provides thousands of professionals with information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early-stage companies. An elected, voting board of directors representing the world's leading incubators governs the association.

The New Jersey Business Incubation Network (NJBIN) is a collaborative statewide community of business experts, resources and facilities dedicated to enhancing the commercial success of early-stage entrepreneurial companies, growing higher paying jobs in New Jersey and supporting the Economic Growth Strategy for the State.

Copyright © 2012 NBIA