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SBA honors St. Lawrence County contractor, Utica marketing agency with small-business awards

By Eric Reinhardt


Bernard J. Paprocki (right), director of the Upstate New York district for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and Dan Rickman (next to Paprocki), deputy district director, present Josh Gilson (left) with the SBA’s Upstate New York Small Business Person of the Year Award. Gilson is owner of Rensselaer Falls–based Tradesman Contracting in St. Lawrence County. (PHOTO CREDIT: SBA)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has recognized companies in St. Lawrence and Oneida Counties with small-business awards.

The SBA honored Josh Gilson, owner of Tradesman Contracting in Rensselaer Falls as the Upstate New York 2020 Small Business Person of the Year. 

The agency also honored Francesca Orsomarso, founder and president of FMN Creative of Utica as upstate New York’s Entrepreneur of the Year. FMN Creative is a boutique digital public-relations firm.

The agency recognized Gilson and Orsomarso during the SBA’s recent observance of National Small Business Week.

Tradesman Contracting

The SBA presented the award at Tradesman Contracting’s offices in Rensselaer Falls in St. Lawrence County. Those participating included Bernard J. Paprocki, director of the SBA’s Upstate New York district office; Dan Rickman, deputy district director; and Michelle Collins, Gilson’s advisor at the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Collins had not only nominated Gilson for the award, but also worked one-on-one with him providing free business counseling and assistance through her job at the SBA resource partner. It allowed Gilson to expand his business.

“Throughout Upstate New York, there’s no better example of small-business resiliency and strength this year than Josh Gilson and Tradesman Contracting. Not only has Josh’s leadership, community contributions, and continued success in the face of adversity grown, but he earned this award through hard work, and both growth in sales and employees,” Paprocki said.

Tradesman Contracting was founded in 2014 after Gilson, who had worked in the utility construction field for five years, recognized a need for more contractors to meet the growing demands of cable, communications, and utility companies. His business began with one pickup truck and a crew of two people. Since then, Gilson has grown Tradesman Contracting to employ more than 20 people who provide service throughout Northern and Central New York.

In 2016, Gilson applied for an SBA 7(a) working capital loan and went on to complete an asset buyout of another small utility construction-company two years later. He has also opened a second location in the Jefferson County community of Philadelphia with a crew of four employees serving that area.

The SBA presented local awards to businesses in the Upstate New York district, which covers 34 counties in the Empire State. The territory includes the Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Capital Region. The agency acknowledged small-business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the district’s service area for their “innovation and resilience” this year.

For more than 50 years, the U.S. Small Business Administration has celebrated National Small Business Week (NSBW), recognizing the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small-business owners. The 2020 NSBW celebrations, held between Sept. 20 and Sept. 26, included a virtual three-day conference and awards ceremony that honored national award winners from across New York and the nation for their accomplishments.

FMN Creative 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) used a virtual meeting to recognize Francesca Orsomarso, founder and president of FMN Creative, a boutique public-relations company in Utica. Participants included (from upper left clockwise) Bernard J. Paprocki, director of the SBA Upstate New York office and Dan Rickman, deputy district director (on same computer screen); Steve Bulger, SBA Regional Administrator; Victoria King, SBA outreach & marketing specialist, who emceed the event; and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Francesca Orsomarso (bottom left of screen). (PHOTO CREDIT: SBA)

The agency presented the award during a virtual meeting held during the SBA’s National Small Business Week, between Sept. 20 and 26. The annual event recognizes the nation’s top small businesses, entrepreneurs, and small-business advocates from across the country.

“While this year’s celebrations are unlike those that have come before, I believe it is more important than ever to recognize our small business community for its innovation and tenacity. The SBA Upstate New York District Office is excited to recognize Francesca Orsomarso, a dedicated entrepreneur who prides herself as a creative problem solver who can harness social media,” Paprocki said. “It’s truly inspiring to see young people like Francesca turn their passion into a successful business — and grow it — right here in Upstate New York.”

Two officials with the Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC) — Roxanne Mutchler, center director, and Paul Arvantides, a business advisor — nominated Orsomarso for the award, Paprocki said. Orsomarso is an SBDC client. 

Their nomination “spoke to” Orsomarso leveraging the SBDC’s advice and counseling to successfully expand her business; increase sales and employment opportunities; harnessing innovation; and “achieving entrepreneurial potential,” Paprocki added.

FMN Creative is a social-media marketing agency that Orsomarso founded in 2016 when she decided to combine her “passion” for marketing and music, per the SBA news release. Since starting, her business has become an SBA-certified, women-owned small business and a New York State-certified women’s business enterprise and economically disadvantaged women-owned small business. These certifications allow FMN Creative to participate in government contracting, which has “opened doors to more opportunities” for Orsomarso’s business to grow and expand.

Orsomarso is a graduate of Mohawk Valley Community College’s ThINCubator, having operated from both her home and the co-working space since 2016. This month, Orsomarso plans to open a new office location in South Utica. This second office space will allow for additional meetings with clients, both digitally and in-person. The second office is considered “especially important” as Orsomarso recently launched an online “Social Shop” and newly expanded social-media training service referred to as FMN Creative’s Social Strategy Academy, the SBA said.

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