ALBANY, N.Y.-Steve Cohen has been named president of the Excelsior Growth Fund, a not-for-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) formed by the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC) for the purpose of executing creative and flexible lending strategies to support small businesses in New York State.
Cohen is currently the executive vice president and deputy commissioner at Empire State Development, where he heads the Department of Small Business Services and Community Economic Development. The department includes the Division for Small Business, the Division for Minority and Women Business Development (DMWBD), the Empowerment Zones Corporation, the Office of Contractor and Supplier Diversity, and the Economic Revitalization Unit.
At Excelsior Growth Fund, Cohen will lead the organization in several new directions, including expanding activities to business advisory services and developing an online platform that will provide small businesses with fast and, most importantly, responsible lending products. Excelsior will initially look to work with New York businesses with emphasis on small businesses in Western New York, Long Island and New York City. A special focus of Excelsior will be on underserved communities and businesses having difficulty securing loans from banks or other traditional sources.
“Steve brings to our organization vast experience with capital lending and management. His expertise in economic and community development, public policy and small business operations brings us the kind of experience we need to really expand the Excelsior Growth Fund,” said Patrick MacKrell, CEO of New York Business Development Corporation, Empire State CDC and Excelsior Growth Fund. “We’re very excited to have someone with his credentials on board as we work to fulfill our mission of helping small businesses grow, hire more people and play an integral role in the expansion of our economy.”
One element that will make the Excelsior Growth Fund both unique and critical to small businesses will be an emphasis on providing ongoing business consulting services to the borrower. Excelsior will focus on providing business assistance to small businesses seeking advice and guidance regarding the collection, presentation and analysis of financial information for their business and to provide links to specialized industry assistance.
“With years of experience, our team, now led by Steve, will help our borrowers on an ongoing basis. Our goal will be to be engaged in the success of our borrowers so that we can all be successful,” said MacKrell. “Excelsior's goal is to assist the small business access affordable capital and other necessary resources to start, grow or sustain operations. In addition to business assistance, Excelsior will provide loan capital and referrals to other lenders that are able to serve the needs of the small businesses.”
While at Empire State Development, Cohen led efforts to create, implement and refine important programs and initiatives to support small business development, increase access to capital and improve the economic climate in communities throughout New York State. New programs and resources he helped develop and oversee included: the Innovation Venture Capital Fund, the Innovate NY seed stage equity fund, the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund;; the revamped Capital Access Program, the Surety Bond Assistance Program; and Business Mentor NY, the first statewide business mentorship program in the U.S.
Over the last four years, these programs provided over $425 million in facilitated lending and more than $150 million in facilitated venture capital investments. More than 20,000 jobs were created or retained and more than 2,000 new businesses were launched. State contracts to certified minority and women-owned businesses rose to $1.9 billion from $900 million in just four years and utilization grew from 10 percent to more than 25 percent during the same period.
“Under Steve’s leadership, Empire State Development facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in new capital for small businesses, created or retained tens of thousands of small business jobs and launched major new community economic development programs that leverage close to a billion dollars of private investment in New York small businesses and underserved communities. We wish him well as he brings his considerable talents to the Excelsior Growth Fund for the benefit of New York’s small business community,” said Howard Zemsky, commissioner, president and CEO of Empire State Development.
Prior to joining Empire State Development in 2009, Cohen served as senior vice president for Seedco Financial Services where he worked in executive management and economic development, as well as loan portfolio management. He also founded and ran a music production company in San Francisco. Steve has a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School.