Small businesses are an essential component of a strong local economy. Our nation’s small businesses not only create well-paying jobs, they also deliver vital goods and services, generate local sales tax revenue, and contribute to the unique character and livability of neighborhoods.
Local leaders are in a unique position to help support and develop a strong small business community. From NLC’s Big Ideas for Small Business report, here are five ways your city can support small businesses during National Small Business Week, and all year long.
- Establish a Small Business Resource Center. Create a business resource center that serves as a hub of information for entrepreneurs and the local small business community. These centers, like Kansas City’s KCBizcare, are staffed with experts who serve as mentors and liaisons to businesses in need of support or information.
- Advocate for Small Businesses via Community-Led Councils or Committees. Form a council or committee consisting of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and other community stakeholders to advise the city council and mayor on small business issues. In Cincinnati, the Small Business Advisory Committee (SBAC) provides feedback on policies and programs that impact business owners.
- Celebrate Successful Businesses. Thank small businesses and recognize their contributions to a city’s unique character. Seattle’s Office of Economic Development and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce select several local companies per quarter to recognize as part of the In Good Company The chosen companies are awarded a video profile on the Seattle Channel, a profile on the Office of Economic Development’s daily newsletter, a press release and proclamation from the mayor, and a free one-year membership to the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
- Encourage Local Small Businesses to Bid for City Contracts. Invest in the long-term future of small businesses by including them in the bidding process for city contracts. As part of the Business Empowerment Plan in San Antonio, the city offers a mentoring program for small businesses designed to help owners build skills that will prepare them for the contract application process. In San Diego, the city’s Small Business Development Program offers educational trainings on the city’s procurement process and helps entrepreneurs market their products and services to the city.
- Develop a One-Stop-Shop at City Hall. Create a one-stop-shop to centralize and streamline the interface between small businesses and city hall. Red tape and inefficiency are problematic for business owners because they waste time and resources that should be spent building their enterprise. The city of Chicago restructured its approach to serving small business by launching the Small Business Center, including an Express Lane service. These initiatives optimize business owners’ time at Chicago City Hall by providing access to staff from various departments at one time, and by better prioritizing requests based on the specific business needs.
About the author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate of Finance and Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.