From today’s Chronicle:
Job growth of 9 percent is a rare feat in these times, but that’s the contribution a San Francisco business nonprofit helped bring to the local economy last year – and it could be on track to do as well or better this year.
“We haven’t compiled this year’s numbers yet, so we’re not sure, but we’re hearing anecdotally that some of our member companies are hiring in twos and threes,” said Beth Sirull, executive director of Pacific Community Ventures, which advises entrepreneurs and small businesses, mainly in lower-income communities in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Last year, the group and its network of corporate volunteers worked with 176 local businesses, collectively employing about 3,000 people, on financial matters, growth strategies, access to capital and “pain points” often experienced by small-business owners.
Sirull said 200 companies are now on PCV’s roster. They range from purveyors of Japanese street food and makers of “reversible dresses” to street signage designers and specialty salt sellers.
Few of them would be considered “bankable,” i.e., likely to get a standard bank loan, but according to PCV’s annual report, 89 percent provide health insurance for their hourly employees, and more than three-quarters offer retirement plans.
“Especially now, it’s absolutely critical to keep supporting these kinds of business,” said Sirull, at the organization’s annual lunch Monday.
In August, Pacific Community Ventures was awarded a $1 million Small Business Administration grant, part of a “lending pilot program” aimed at startups and small businesses in “underserved markets.”
That means it will soon begin directing loans of between $50,000 and $200,000 to some of its clients, and a couple of new ones, in addition to advice.
“The thing these businesses need most is customers,” Sirull said. Those doing best these days, she said, are those selling “high-end goods and small luxuries.”
Sirull is a bit skeptical of the payroll tax break component of President Obama’s jobs bill. “Small businesses hire when there’s increased demand for their product. It involves more than just getting a tax break,” she said. “I mean, if you were a small business, would you hire just because you got a tax break?”
Success story: One of PCV’s long-term clients, Heath Ceramics of Sausalito, last week announced a major expansion into San Francisco.
The 63-year-old company, which produces artisan dinnerware, is taking up 20,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and retail space in the Mission District early next year.
“It was a $5 million company when we started working with them five years ago,” Sirull said. “Now it’s a $10 million company.”
The space, at Florida and 18th streets, will initially house 34 employees, but the number will grow, as the company looks to take over an additional 40,000 square feet over the next three years.
“We looked to San Francisco and this neighborhood because of its history as a center of manufacturing and production, and its current reputation as a center for creativity and design,” co-owners Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic said in announcing the expansion.