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Q&A with Karolyn R. Gould

Published by The New York Sun on 2005-02-08

Karolyn R. Gould is associate director of the Independent Living Resource Center at Hunter College School of Social Work, and a leading advocate for developing adolescents in foster care in the city, state and nationally. From 1978 through 2000, she contributed to the revitalization of the South Bronx as director of human services with the South Bronx Development Organization and as director of its successor agency, the South Bronx Development Organization.

In what neighborhoods of New York does Big Business need to expand?

Look at where the arts and small businesses are burgeoning, land prices are lower, and back office and/or retail needs can be served with local space and labor. Look at what has happened and is happening in Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx neighborhoods. A big business can either follow success or bet on promising areas.

Small-and-medium-sized businesses have been called the backbone of the city's economy. Is that still true, and what needs to be done to encourage such businesses?

It is still true. Small-and-medium-sized businesses continue to be the backbone of the city's economy because of their numbers. For example, they were the key to South Bronx Revitalization, where Edward Logue's successful strategy encouraged and supported the growth of small and medium-sized businesses with access to loans, technical assistance and lots of hand-on guidance. It proved easier and more cost-effective to promote growth through expansion of quantities of small successes than to expend limited staff resources on wooing big business. Secondly, there was less risk in promoting growth in many small and medium-sized businesses than risking so much more in courting a few big businesses that can pull out for competing locations, as FarberWare did, resulting in greater losses.

Should Wall Street firms, banks, pharmaceuticals, media corporations get more involved in social issues, and why -- and how?
It depends on how you define social issues. Big business should get more involved in issues that improving the quality of the labor force, such as adolescent literacy, an unmet program need that can impact positively on the employ ability of young adults. Or after-school programs that we know reduce absenteeism of working parents. Overall, programs should be supported that impact positively on labor force performance and growth, promote sustainable development in neighborhoods and increase property values and local purchasing power.

How can community-based civic organization work better with the city's corporations?

My basic premise is that community residents should contribute to and benefit from economic and commercial development in neighborhoods. This should be the goal of collaboration between civic organizations and Big Business. Community-based civic organizations as well as social organizations need more collaborative approaches that apprehend business needs and develop local responses that support them. Conversely, business need to be realistic about neighborhood organizations' capacities to respond to their needs and provide pro bono technical assistance, such as project-based staff loans (very short term) when expertise is needed for a specific, non-repetitive task.

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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