How Local Leaders Can Make Their City Small Business Friendly
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There is no doubt that small businesses play a critical role in fostering the economic vitality of a community, generating both jobs for residents and revenue for the city. That is why it’s important for city leaders to understand effective strategies for supporting and encouraging small business development. Whether it’s creating space for innovation, cutting red tape or proactively engaging the business community, there are many successful approaches that can be adopted by city leaders across the county.
At the NLC University Leadership Summit being held from August 13—16 in Santa Clara, Calif., economic development expert Amy Holloway will guide participants through strategies highlighted in NLC's recent Big Ideas for Small Business report that can foster stronger economic growth in their communities.
Creating Space for Innovation
City governments can play an important role in ensuring start-ups and entrepreneurs have the space they need to develop their products and services. Many cities have established incubators to help accelerate the pace at which innovative start-ups can launch their businesses.
Incubator spaces, such 1871 in Chicago, are low-cost office space where start-ups can develop their products and business plans. These collaborative workspaces also typically provide entrepreneurs with access to educational workshops, networking and other opportunities designed to build their capacity as business owners.
Not only does 1871 help to increase the likelihood that a new business will succeed, but by holding weekly “open government hack nights,” it also serves as a way to strengthen ties between local government officials and the tech start-up community. Through this model, Chicago is intentionally choosing to foster a community of innovation, providing the promise of sustained economic health in the city.
Making Regulations Make Sense
The regulatory environment in cities and towns should be designed to help small businesses open safely and quickly, not create unnecessary hurdles for business owners. At the same time, cities can more effectively serve business owners when they understand the “rules of the road” when it comes to permitting, licensing and zoning.
To this end, New York City’s government is addressing this issue by ensuring that the regulations for small business are easily understood. Through “Starter Guides,” a local entrepreneur is able to find easily accessible information regarding the specific business that they intend to open, and the laws that are directly applicable to their work. By making this information user-friendly, New York has lowered the barriers to starting a business, thereby creating a culture of opportunity for all.
Proactively Engaging the Business Community
Establishing a city with a culture of supporting small businesses and innovation requires the business community having a voice at the table. In Cincinnati, the Small Business Advisory Committee (SBAC), which includes representation from small business owners in the community, was developed to serve as a counsel to the Mayor, City Council and other local leaders on issues that impact small businesses.
The SBAC has helped the city better assist small business, including the formation of a one-stop, centralized web portal with information for local business owners on services and opportunities they might not otherwise learn about. SBAC also created “jump teams,” which are coordinated teams of city staff from across departments that provide streamlined and coordinated support to help small businesses open their doors more quickly.
In just these few examples, it is clear that there are many opportunities for city leaders to help foster a successful, innovative local economy. Through conversations with leaders from around the country, as well as guidance from Ms. Holloway, Summit participants will walk away with a number of best practices and strategies, as well as tips for overcoming anticipated obstacles, in order to ensure that their community is one that supports small businesses every step of the way.
About the Speaker: Amy Holloway is the founder and president of Avalanche Consulting, Inc., one of the nation's leading economic development firms. She has spent the past two decades creating economic development plans for organizations throughout the U.S. and Europe, working for AngelouEconomics prior to founding Avalanche. Since its founding in 2005, Avalanche has guided its clients to develop clear economic goals and plans to address the challenges they will face, resulting in the creation of thousands of new jobs and over $3 billion in new capital investments.