Michael Crain, councilmember for Fort Worth’s third district, takes pride in the city’s small-town feel, despite being the third fastest growing city in the U.S. Fort Worth’s million or so residents enjoy abundant arts festivals, entertainment and dining scenes, which keeps the city lively.
However, Crain recognizes that efforts to support small business owners could be strengthened. As a small business owner himself, Crain welcomed the establishment of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation committee, led by Mayor Mattie Parker, to promote a business-friendly environment. However, he believes there must be more intentional focus on small business owners and their unique needs. “All small business owners are entrepreneurs, but not all entrepreneurs are small business owners,” says Crain. “In my mind, there was an unmet need for targeted focus on our small business ecosystem.”
Crain acknowledges that small businesses in Fort Worth face bureaucratic hurdles. A 2022 study from The Institute for Justice found it took 63 steps for a restaurant to open in Fort Worth. While this number is not drastically different from other large American cities, Fort Worth realized smaller businesses, especially those in disadvantaged communities, were shouldering this burden especially hard. Helping businesses navigate the red tape, while providing training to help them sustain or grow, would create a more stable local economy and a steady source of nearby jobs, bolstering the livelihood of all residents throughout the city.
How Fort Worth is Doing It
To address this, Fort Worth has joined seven other cities in the City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) program, to focus on the Entrepreneurship Curriculum commitment supported by Kauffman’s FastTrac. They are building a 10-week, bilingual training program to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary business skills, resources, tools, and peer networks to start and grow successful businesses. The curriculum will be offered by Fort Worth’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FWHCC), which has a robust membership of new and established businesses and will complement their newly launched Entrepreneurial Center.
“The next X Corporation is sitting in someone’s living room,” notes Crain. “It’s up to us to provide the necessary tools to all of our communities, not just those that already have the education or the access, so that these companies can live up to their full potential.”
In addition, the city is engaging local, regional, and national partner organizations through a separate program supported by the FWHCC: The Small Business Task Force (SBTF). The informal group of businesses meets regularly to provide feedback and positive changes to city processes of supporting small businesses.
The city hopes this eventually opens new doors for small business owners, especially when it comes to navigating city bureaucracy. “That’s why I’m excited about this program because I want to figure out what our inefficiencies are still, and how we can address them to make the process better for everyone,” says Crain.
Actions speak louder than words. It is often said that Fort Worth is a business-friendly city. Crain challenges his peers to prove that’s the case by giving tangible examples to demonstrate what they’re doing to support local businesses.
It takes a village. No one player should be trying to tackle these problems by themselves. Government can get the right people, the right businesses in the room. Crain encourages facilitating conversations amongst experts, including the neighborhood chambers, to generate the best ideas and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Believe in your people. Crain believes in the potential of people who want to work hard and succeed for themselves, their families, and their communities. He advocates opening doors for them in various ways to ensure that they have the opportunities they deserve.
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. In November 2022, Councilmember Michael Crain and FWHCC Director of Business Development Jazmin Gutierrez of Fort Worth, Texas, committed to establishing a local affiliate for an entrepreneurship curriculum to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills they need.