Located in South Florida, near Miami, the City of Lauderhill is majority Black/African American, with sizeable populations of people from other racial backgrounds, according to the 2020 Census. To infuse equity into its business practices and become an example for neighboring cities, Lauderhill is turning its attention to their government contracting process to support local businesses, especially Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE). They are also taking steps to actively advance legislation to codify this support within their city.
The City of Lauderhill participated in the City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) Program last year, where they focused on supporting and licensing informal businesses. This included creating intentional relationships with small business owners from historically underrepresented backgrounds. In the second year of their involvement with the CIE Program, Lauderhill continues to focus on connecting with its small business community, which is largely comprises MWBEs. The city hopes to provide them with more opportunities at the government level, specifically through their participation in the Public Procurement Commitment of the CIE Program, where they receive expertise from Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab. By improving access to public procurement opportunities, the city seeks to connect more entrepreneurs of color with additional revenue streams and chip away at the barriers to funding that plague the Lauderhill business community.
How Lauderhill is Doing It
Commissioner Melissa Dunn has served Lauderhill’s local government since 2020. Along with the City Manager’s Office, she has authored and is pushing forward legislation designed to improve access to government contracts for local businesses. An ordinance from this legislation, which expresses any contract under $100,000—provided there are at least three existing businesses in a given category of business relevant to the contract—should give priority to local businesses. While changing the law makes a big difference in the types of opportunities and processes local businesses can access, local preference faces some legal challenges in Florida.
Success is not just the law on paper, it includes other opportunities as well. To Commissioner Dunn, there are three steps to measure success of any small business government program. The first is to identify barriers to the procurement process so the city can come up with systematic solutions. The second is that individuals are successfully enrolled in these opportunities, and third, is that individuals are actually prepared to take advantage of these opportunities. Commissioner Dunn notes the importance of reporting on a regular basis to see how much of local funds are spent on local businesses.
The Lauderhill Shines Project
Securing the systemic measures is a program specifically designed for building capacity of local entrepreneurs called Lauderhill Shines. Once Commissioner Dunn’s ordinance was underway, participants from Lauderhill Shines competed for, and won, government contracts. One of the businesses that participated was able to leverage the program to win additional contracts with other cities; demonstrating that access to government contracts not only kickstarts business growth, but also provides more local jobs for residents and more tax revenue to the city.
Some of those benefits could not have happened without the funding the CIE Program provided. These resources allowed the city to advertise the program, have staff research local businesses, conduct outreach, and generally direct needed attention to implementation of the ordinance. Commissioner Dunn shared specific ways the CIE program directly supports their public procurement process: “The grant program gives us the opportunity to create a sense of urgency and to also build our capacity in doing the leg work that it really takes to look at your systems and identify what’s broken so you can fix it.”
Lessons Learned from Lauderhill
Commissioner Dunn’s roots in the business community as former president of the Lauderhill Chamber of Commerce led her to share some important lessons and advice for communities looking to advance public procurement effectively. The CIE program has provided an impetus to put much of her advice into practice for the city:
- Communication is key. Policymakers and business leaders need to talk to one another. This way local governments can better understand the needs of the community.
- Focus on partnerships. Collaborate with local businesses, city staff, and nonprofits to create a symbiotic relationship with the people and organizations that are directly involved in the project.
- This work is continuous and collaborative. Building coalitions of support and making change takes ongoing commitment and doesn’t happen overnight. Regular commitment to supporting entrepreneurs in the community builds a culture around the program that leads to sustainability.
Taking an ordinance from paper to implementation takes teamwork. The City Manager’s Office in Lauderhill, in partnership with its commissioners, has allowed Lauderhill to continue to bridge words into actions, for the benefit of its small businesses and community as a whole.
This blog is part of a series highlighting NLC’s City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) Network. Cities in the network have committed to implementing new policies, programs and practices that increase economic opportunity for residents through small business ownership and entrepreneurship.