Goldman Sachs to spend $10M on new program for RI small businesses

Officials gather to announce Goldman Sachs's business program in Rhode Island. (photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Financial giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. announced Tuesday it will spend $10 million in Rhode Island to bring its nationwide program for small businesses to the state, with the money earmarked to fund loans and classes.

The program, known as 10,000 Small Businesses, was launched by Goldman in 2009 as the bank was facing unprecedented public hostility over its involvement in the financial crisis and subsequent Wall Street bailout. The $500-million charitable initiative was widely seen as part of Goldman’s effort to rebuild its public standing.

The Community College of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island School of Design have been designated as the local academic institutions for 10,000 Small Businesses, while BDC Capital will be handling the loans. Applications for the free classes are now being accepted at 10ksbapply.com, while loan information will be available from BDC.

To be eligible to apply, a small businesses must have annual revenue of more than $100,000, be at least two years old, and employ at least two full-time workers, Goldman said. Entrepreneurs are not required to sign up for classes to apply for a loan.

Attendees listen at the Goldman Sachs announcement in Providence. (photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)
Attendees listen at the Goldman Sachs announcement in Providence. (photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

Goldman President and COO Gary Cohn, the No. 2 executive at the bank, announced the program’s expansion to Rhode Island – its first statewide launch – at an event in a Providence bike shop alongside Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Mayor Jorge Elorza. Reed is the senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees Goldman and other financial firms, and Cohn donated $4,600 to his re-election campaign in 2007.

Reed described the education component of 10,000 Small Businesses as being “like an accelerated, tailored MBA program for entrepreneurs who want to enhance their business.” Cohn said, “We are really trying to get to the root cause of job creation.” He described the classes as “rigorous” and involving an “enormous amount of homework.”

Goldman could increase its commitment to Rhode Island beyond $10 million if the program is successful. “It’s always an option,” he said. The state is now one of 13 places where the bank has rolled out the program.

According to Goldman, more than 6,000 companies have taken part in the 10,000 Small Businesses program in the U.S. and U.K. since its launch. The bank says 67% of them increased revenue and 46% added net new jobs in the six months after competing it.

Cohn said the push to bring 10,000 Small Businesses to Rhode Island began when Raimondo visited Goldman’s offices in New York City on June 1 last year to try and drum up their interest in the state. She also spoke to John Rogers, an executive vice president at the firm, who was on hand Tuesday. Raimondo said Goldman is one of a number of major companies she’s visited on trips to Manhattan for economic development.

“She’s the driving force that brought us all together,” Reed said.

Cohn also alluded to his own personal connection to Rhode Island, saying RISD is “near and dear to my heart” – presumably a reference to the fact that his wife, Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn, graduated from the design school in 1983 and is vice chair of its board.

Raimondo linked the new Goldman program with the state’s creation last year of a new Small Business Assistance Program that will provide $5.5 million in financing to companies with up to 200 employees that need capital. The application for that program has not yet been posted.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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