LATHAM, N.Y. – The New York State Credit Union League has joined with other organizations supporting New York's first statewide microenterprise association called MicroBizNY that was launched Dec. 10 by several upstate and downstate microenterprise organizations to promote enterprise opportunities for people and communities throughout the state. Representatives from the League and six area credit unions that are involved in microbusiness lending, attended a ceremony that day that was keynoted by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). In her keynote, Clinton said, "Although it is called `microenterprise,' it is a macro idea a big idea with vast potential. Whether we are talking about rural corners of Hamilton county or the streets of the Bronx, microenterprise is an invaluable tool in alleviating poverty, promoting self-sufficiency, and stimulating economic activity in some of the state's most disadvantaged communities. The ideals that make microenterprise work are not new – responsibility, hard-work, and personal achievement. What's revolutionary is the group of people given the chance to partake in the dream. It requires us to think about the poor among us in a new light, and to see the potential that they see in themselves." Clinton also acknowledged her support for credit unions' microlending activities. According to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, New York State has the highest level of microlending in the U.S. – more than $5.4 million was lent to microenterprises in 2000. However, an AEO Executive Director Bill Edwards said that prior to MicroBizNY, there hadn't been a "true statewide coalition of organizations representing the broader needs and issues of the industry." Nationally, said the AEO, microenterprise employment represents 16.4% of all private employment in the U.S. New York's 1.5 million microenterprises employ almost 19% of the state's entire workforce. New York has had a statewide advocacy organization representing some local organizations in microenterprise through the Statewide Emergency Network for Social and Economic Security (SENSES). That organization, said the AEA, has been successful in leading legislative efforts in New York to achieve funding for the Entrepreneur Assistance program. However, said Edwards, "The lack of a true State Microenterprise Association has probably been the single biggest factor in limiting the overall development of microenterprise throughout the state." MicroBizNY was developed under the umbrella of SENSES. The organization plans to soon become an independent 501(c) non-profit that will be affiliated with SENSES. The organization is currently under the interim direction of a steering committee made up of microenterprise practitioners. The League was contacted by Clinton's office prior to the program's launching and supplied her office with information on credit unions in the state that are involved in microbusiness lending. Microenterprise is defined as a business with five or few employees requiring $35,000 or less in start up capital. -

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