The National League of Cities’ new toolkit, Big Ideas for Small Business, discusses important strategies for how local leaders can be better advocates for entrepreneurs and small business in cities. The report provides guidance on how to create an ecosystem that supports small business growth.
Below are some initial next steps that local leaders can take to create a supportive ecosystem and replicate some of the best practices in this new toolkit:
Familiarize yourself with your city’s small business owners and entrepreneurs, and get connected to their informal peer networks. Hosting listening tours and round table sessions are a great way to get feedback from the small business community. Ask about the need for incubator space, business skills training, and other resources.
Establish a task force to advise you on small business issues. Gather a trusted circle of experts made up of representatives from government, small business, non-profit organizations, and local universities with business programs.
Cross-train your city staff in the various city departments that interact with small businesses (e.g., health, inspections, zoning, licensing, etc.). Creating a workforce that can work better across departments will better serve your city’s business clients. As a long-term goal, these key staffers can help you build a plan to create a one-stop-shop in the future.
Create a “roadmap” of all the regulatory steps it takes to establish a small business in your city. Publish this roadmap online and share it with the small business community.
Examine your city’s municipal code to see if there are ways to streamline the inspection or permitting processes to create efficiencies and reduce administrative hurdles for small business owners.
Explore the microlending capacity in your community, and gauge the interest among local business owners to use crowdfunding as a method for raising capital.
Meet with your city’s procurement department to discuss your city’s local sourcing capacity to fulfil city contracts for goods and servicing.
Whether by engaging with the small businesses community, providing better customer service at city hall, or connecting business owners to capital, we hope that the strategies included in the toolkit will guide local leaders towards creating an ecosystem that supports small businesses and provides the foundation for a stronger local economy.
About the author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate, Finance and Economic Development at NLC and the author of a new report on entrepreneurship and small business growth. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.