Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
With help from local internet companies, New York City is launching free tech classes for small businesses interested in building their own websites or marketing themselves using social media.
The city's chief digital officer, Rachel Haot, will teach the first class on September 20 at the Business Solutions Center in Queens. "Entrepreneurs will be able to walk out of courses....with a new website or facebook page," Haot said.
About 60 percent of small businesses have an online presence, according to Haot.
Companies such as Mashable, Tumblr and Weebly helped develop guides for building web sites and for marketing through social media. Mashable Vice President Stacy Green said that small businesses will be introduced to services that are free and that have the potential to reach thousands and hopefully millions of people. "Whether it’s Tumblr...or Four Square...or Twitter," she said.
The city's Small Business Services is sponsoring the classes. Commissioner Robert Walsh said small businesses want to get up to speed and use the internet to grow and reach more customers.
"I was out in Brighton Beach yesterday meeting with a number of small businesses from the Russian community," Walsh said. "They need help in terms of getting on the internet. They need help in developing their websites."
The city expects to offer 20 to 25 free classes at its Business Solutions Centers citywide. Hundreds of business owners are expected to be served, and the city says it hopes to reach thousands more through how-to-guides that will be posted online.