45 Cities Make Commitments to Inclusive Economic Development

Today, the National League of Cities is announcing more than 40 cities that have made specific, bold commitments to driving innovation and inclusive economic development through entrepreneurship.

These cities lead the nation in reimagining economic growth and partnering across sectors to put racial and gender equity at the forefront of their economic strategies.

They range from small towns with just over 5,000 people to rapidly growing port cities: from state capitals to large metropolises and college hubs. Each joins a cohort of peer cities and national program experts providing year-long technical assistance.

The cities will:

  • Expand opportunity for young firms and entrepreneurs of color and women by adjusting legacy procurement practices, diversifying leadership positions on boards and commissions, and establishing municipal partnerships with startups.
  • Increase equal access to capital through new microlending and equity crowdfunding initiatives.
  • Make the tools and resources entrepreneurs need to grow a business readily accessible, including asset mapping and business training.
  • Provide entrepreneurs in the informal economy with greater, non-punitive support.

Commitment-making cities

City of Albuquerque City of Jackson City of Portland
City of Alexandria (LA) City of Kankakee City of Rexburg
City of Alexandria (VA) City of Kansas City (KS) City of Roanoke
City of Anchorage City of Kansas City (MO) City of Rochester
City of Augusta City of Manor City of Rock Hill
City of Belvidere City of Melrose City of Snohomish
Borough of Carlisle City of Memphis City of St. Louis
City of Chattanooga City of Miramar City of Suisun City
City of Colleyville City of Moab City of Tacoma
City of Detroit City of New Orleans City of Tampa
City of Downers Grove City of Oklahoma City City of Tulsa
City of Easthampton City of Ormond Beach City of Waco
City of Erie City of Philadelphia City of Wichita
City of Fresno City of Pittsburgh City of Wilmington
City of Henderson City of Port St. Lucie

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Ownership as a Pillar of Community Wealth Building

America has realized significant economic growth over the last century, but this growth has been far from inclusive. Wealth accumulation in Black and Hispanic communities is significantly lower than in the communities of their white counterparts on both an individual and family basis.[1] Income inequality continues to rise for Black and Hispanic households and is increasing among Asian-Americans as compared to white households.[2]

A sustainable, thriving business is an asset that can directly impact community wealth. Business ownership offers the opportunity to improve the financial security of those who lack the privilege of inherited wealth or access to capital. Furthermore, entrepreneurship provides communal benefits that reach far beyond the interests of the business owner. [3]

Racial and gender disparities in business ownership, however, are well-documented. Women make up only 33% of America’s 5.6 million business owners with employees, and people of color represent a mere 20% despite making up making up 40% of the population.[4] And yet minority-owned small businesses are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic [5]  — a crisis which exacerbates the systemic oppression these businesses already face.

Inclusive entrepreneurship means we must dismantle the barriers that stand in the path of entrepreneurs who are BIPOC and/or women. These barriers include, but are not limited to, uneven access to equity capital and investable assets; fewer liquid reserves; the prevalence of low-wage and vulnerable jobs in communities of color; depressed revenues of black-owned businesses; discrimination; predatory lending schemes and exclusion from primarily White, male entrepreneurial networks. By making a commitment, these 40+ cities are taking bold action toward establishing inclusive and innovative systems of support for entrepreneurs. We look forward to joining them in creating a community of practice, exchanging ideas and experimenting with novel ways of providing technical assistance, and rebuilding stronger local ecosystems in which all their entrepreneurs can thrive.

About the Authors

Cori Rice is a Senior Program Specialist, Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities.

 Phil Berkaw is a program manager on NLC’s Innovation Ecosystems team.

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/the-economic-impact-of-closing-the-racial-wealth-gap

[2] https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/07/12/income-inequality-in-the-u-s-is-rising-most-rapidly-among-asians/

[3] https://www.kauffman.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/kauffman_compilation_race_entrepreneurship.pdf

[4] https://www.brookings.edu/research/businesses-owned-by-women-and-minorities-have-grown-will-covid-19-undo-that/

[5] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19s-effect-on-minority-owned-small-businesses-in-the-united-states