CIE Program Kicks Off Its Fifth and Final Year of Advancing Equitable Economic Development and Entrepreneurship


  • Safaya Fawzi
December 29, 2023 - (6 min read)

At the 2023 City Summit in Atlanta, GA, the National League of Cities (NLC) welcomed the latest participants in the City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) program, which seeks to address these inequities and underrepresentation of entrepreneurs of color and from other underrepresented backgrounds. Through generous sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, participants of the 2023-2024 CIE program were invited to kick off the new program year at a combined workshop and commitment ceremony event. Participants, who have until now only connected virtually with their fellow CIE members, finally got the chance to meet in person, brainstorm action plans for the year, learn from past CIE participants, and formally commit and celebrate their participation in the year-long program, which runs through August 2024.

Since NLC first started this project in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation in 2018, there have been tremendous changes in the field of inclusive, entrepreneurship led economic development. The 2023-2024 program year will be the last of CIE in its current form. Following this final year of programming with cities, NLC will use the learnings, efforts, and partnerships of the past program years to examine and formalize promising practices, and assess where NLC can be of greatest service to its members and other local governments going forward. It will also provide the opportunity to build a network of the many participant communities and partners that have advanced inclusive entrepreneurship in their cities since 2018.

Entering its fifth and final year, this program has grown to include more than 250 cities, 300 local partners and $100 million in committed resources. By joining CIE, cities are provided resources and support to help entrepreneurs of color and those from underrepresented backgrounds achieve greater economic mobility, reduce the racial wealth gap, and create more equitable outcomes for local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Participating cities select a commitment that aligns with the strategic priorities for their small business community. These eight commitments are built around the four pillars of America’s New Business Plan, which aims to ensure that “anyone with an idea has access to the opportunity, funding, knowledge and support to turn it into a reality.”

Once a commitment is chosen, cities are partnered not just with other cities in their chosen cohort, but also with technical program experts. They will share their successes and challenges with each other, and they will have access to program experts’ support throughout the grant year to help implement their projects and provide valuable feedback.

We know more equitable and accessible local economies take time to bloom and grow, and these year-long projects are just one piece of each community’s inclusive development strategy. Yet by joining the CIE program, these cities have signaled the importance of taking decisive action in the near term to improve economic opportunity for underserved communities. We look forward to the brighter economic future they are creating, one small business at a time.

CIE participants take a collective photo with their cohort, Resource Mapping. Cohorts meet quarterly and connect regularly with Program Experts from technical assistance partner organizations to support cities in achieving their CIE projects to advance equitable entrepreneurship in their communities. 

At the CIE Workshop and Launch held November 16, 2023, former CIE participants from City government and Entrepreneurial Support Organizations (ESOs) participated in a “CIE Alumni Panel” to share more about their experiences with CIE and past grant projects, answering questions from cities new to the program about how to maximize their time in the CIE program.

In 2023, 40 cities from 22 states across the country made 57 commitments to implement year-long projects that will help foster economic growth in their communities.

Join us in welcoming these cities, whose commitments include:

  • Increasing supplier diversity through equitable procurement strategies at anchor institutions such as universities, hospitals, corporations and utility companies (City of Tucson, AZ; City of Des Moines, IA; City of Topeka, KS; City of Lawrence, KS; City of Chattanooga, TN; City of Ft. Worth, TX)
  • Rethinking how to solicit tech solutions and attract potential partnerships with startups and tech-based entrepreneurs (City of Los Altos Hills, CA; County of Miami Dade, FL; City of Houston, TX; City of Arlington, VA; City of Richmond, VA)
  • Lowering barriers for Hispanic/Latinx entrepreneurs to start and grow a business (City of Durango, CO; City of Dubuque, IA; City of Kansas City, KS; City of Topeka, KS; City of Buffalo, NY; City of Tulsa, OK; City of Ft. Worth, TX)
  • Equipping aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills they need to start a business (City of Montgomery, AL; City of Wilmington, DE; City of Kankakee, IL; City of Kansas City, KS; City of Lawrence, KS; City of Manhattan, KS; City of Columbia, MO; City of Beaverton, OR)
  • Cataloging local resources available to entrepreneurs (County of Miami Dade, FL; City of Evanston, IL; Village of Matteson, IL; City of Lawrence, KS; City of Springfield, MA; City of Webster Groves, MO; City of Charlotte, NC; City of Muskogee, OK; City of Snohomish, WA)
  • Building a microlending platform to serve entrepreneurs without access to traditional finance (City of Sausalito, CA; City of Lauderhill, FL; City of Kansas City, KS; City of Columbia, MO)
  • Prioritizing business supports and financial empowerment for early childcare providers (City of Little Rock, AK; City of Wichita, KS; City of New Orleans, LA; City of Columbia, MO; City of Oklahoma City, OK; City of Chattanooga, TN)
  • Establishing and/or enhancing a network of entrepreneurial resource partners to accelerate small business goal attainment (City of Montgomery, AL; City of Kankakee, IL; City of New Orleans, LA; City of Easthampton, MA; City of Columbia, MO; City of Omaha, NE; City of Raleigh, NC; City of Oklahoma City, OK; City of Missouri City, TX)

Here is the list of commitments cities have pledged for the 2023-2024 CIE Program grant year:

  • Anchor Procurement – Program Expertise provided by Interise
  • Early Childhood Workforce – Program Expertise provided by NLC’s Early Childhood Success Team
  • Ecosystem Accelerator – Program Expertise provided by Third Eye Network
  • Entrepreneurship Curriculum – Program Expertise provided by Kauffman FastTrac
  • Hispanic/Latinx Entrepreneurship – Program Expertise provided by Prospera
  • Microlending – Program Expertise provided by Kiva US
  • Resource Mapping – Program Expertise provided by SourceLink
  • Working with Startups – Program Expertise provided by CivStart

Stay connected with the CIE program through our monthly webinar series, open to the public!

Dig Deeper

Find out more about NLC’s City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) program and the cities that are committing to innovation, equity and entrepreneurship.

About the Author

Safaya Fawzi

About the Author

Safaya Fawzi is a Program Manager in the Center for Municipal Practice at the National League of Cities.