Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham of East Point, Georgia, knows firsthand entrepreneurship is the key to a thriving community. Understanding entrepreneurship’s impact on people is something she learned from growing up watching the positive influence of her father’s small business, a family construction company, on their community. “He created jobs. He provided job training by literally teaching people skills on the job. He helped people during times of need and helped them support their families,” Ingraham explained.
Mayor Ingraham’s personal experiences support what decades of data and analysis tell us about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are the primary source of almost all net new jobs, yet are usually not the beneficiaries of government policies and interventions to stimulate job creation.
“Big box stores can be great, but they come in and take up a lot of real estate and when they leave you really feel it,” Ingraham said. “Small businesses are people who are living in the community and are invested in its success.”
For Mayor Ingraham, joining the City Innovation Ecosystems Program through a partnership with NLC and the Kauffman Foundation’s Mayors Conference became a natural fit. Through her work as a member of the NLC Equity Cohort, she was approached by Kauffman Mayors’ Council member, former mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, to consider attending the annual Kauffman Mayors Conference.
Last year was the inaugural year for the Kauffman Foundation partnership with NLC asking each city to commit to a specific program or practice proven to support entrepreneurship at the annual Mayors Conference. Mayor Ingraham chose to commit to “connecting with local entrepreneurs and supporting growth” – the goal being to identify a local entrepreneur support organization in her city that could apply to become a FastTrac affiliate organization. One year later, East Point, Georgia, is considered a success story and model for their initiative’s cohort.
“What I liked most (about the Mayors Conference) was that all I was asked was to do was to make a commitment and that Kauffman and NLC would actively support our community.”
After coming back from the conference, she realized that the only two entrepreneurship networking groups were over 50 miles away from East Point. She worked quickly with her city economic development agency to integrate entrepreneurship networking into monthly meetings that were already being held.
She appreciated how the Mayors Conference helped smaller and mid-size cities tailor strategies to fit their community’s needs. “I walked away with a very clear, two-minute elevator pitch of how to explain entrepreneurship to my community and why it’s important.”
She added, “Not only did I gain knowledge, but I was able to have a partner in Kauffman and NLC to help me implement.”
The next step in implementation for Mayor Ingraham is launching two entrepreneurial educational courses with help from her local partners, the Vault Foundation and East Point’s economic development department. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they had to adjust the programming from being in-person to online, but Mayor Ingraham still believes it will be a much-needed resource in their community.
“Entrepreneurship has to be elevated as a higher priority right now,” she said as she discussed how creating networks and expanding access to capital will be instrumental in helping people who may have lost their jobs or their business due to the pandemic get back on their feet. At the end of the day, she recognizes that entrepreneurship, “helps support people, gets them back into the workforce and helps them support their families.”
About the Author
Erin Schrimpf is a Principal at Tightline Public Affairs where she manages a portfolio of public policy issues and campaigns for a variety of clients, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.