Binghamton offering $5 for local start-ups

By Matt Porter

April 22, 2013 Updated Apr 29, 2013 at 9:00 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Applications are now open for a $5,000 competitive grant that will be awarded to a local small business start-up.

The Binghamton Local Development Corporation and Broome Community College Entrepreneurial Assistance Program are sponsoring the fifth annual contest.

This year's contest also includes $5,000 in advertising with the Press and Sun Bulletin, a one-year membership to the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce and professional website help from RS Works.

Last year, Jimmy Orband and his four partners won the prize.

His business, CommuniKey, offers a discount card to local businesses for area college students.

"Start ups are a lot more prominent in the area now," Orband said, "And they're definitely growing and it's going to be good in the long run."

His business is now in its third year.

CommuniKey has more than 2,000 subscribers with more than 60 local businesses participating.

Orband said the decision to apply for the BLDC-EAP grant was obvious.

"We thought this is a great opportunity to grow our business, so let's go for it," he said.

Orband said the money helped CommuniKey perform a major advertising blitz and re-design its website.

He said it helped his company double its business.

That's good news to Merry Harris, director of the Binghamton Office of Economic Development, who helps oversee the contest.

She said it's all about keeping local businesses in the city.

"What we're trying to do is give them more of a leg up, or whatever we can do to make sure that they're stable in the first few years," Harris said.

By offering $5,000 each year, the city hopes to keep its best entrepreneurs in Binghamton.

"It's important to start small businesses in the city," Harris said, "And that's going to be the backbone of the local economy."

Harris said small businesses are more likely to hire locally and are invested in the success of the city.

Orband, co-owner of CommuniKey, said it's important that city's highlight their local businesses.

"Helping businesses to be recognized in the community for what they're doing is huge for any start-up," he said.

In the first four years of the grant program, three out of the four winners are still in business.

And a few others who applied but didn't win are also still open.

The application process includes attendance at a required, free workshop on creating a business plan.

Preliminary applications are due on May 6.

Finalists will be announced on May 10.

A winner will be announced on June 20 at a press conference at City Hall with Mayor Matt Ryan.