Libraries, the Creative Class, and Incentive Deals: This Month in Economic Development

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Our monthly roundup of the latest news in economic development filtered through a city-focused lens. Reading something interesting? Share it with @robbins617.

Libraries Emerge as a Support System for Entrepreneurs. Libraries aren’t just for books anymore. Increasingly, cities are turning to libraries as an established community resource for entrepreneurs. The Dallas Business Resource and Information Network (B.R.A.I.N.) is a new partnership between the city’s economic development office and public library branches that will help increase access to entrepreneurial support services. Chattanooga and Tel Aviv are two other cities leveraging libraries as a key element of their ecosystems.


Lessons from Roanoke on Attracting the Creative Class to Smaller Cities. NLC’s Trevor Langan examines the growth of the creative class in Roanoke, Va., and suggests how other cities can follow suit. The main takeaways are to focus on placemaking strategies, bolstering creative sectors (such as software development and medical research), and marketing community assets and amenities.

Who’s Getting Economic Development Incentives? A new study from Good Jobs First, the Surdna Foundation, and the Kauffman Foundation found that large companies receive the lion’s share of state economic development incentives compared to small businesses. Among the companies in the study, the larger ones collect 90 percent of available incentive funding. The author calls this discrepancy a harmful “bias against small businesses.” On a related note, Smart Incentives explains three key steps for conducting a cost-benefit analysis on incentive deals.

Cities Share Big Ideas for Small Business. The third annual Big Ideas for Small Business Summit convened in Los Angeles, where over 50 city colleagues shared ideas for how to support small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs in their communities. The convening focused on best practices for creating an equitable ecosystem, such as proactively preventing predatory small business lending, implementing business retention strategies, and developing an inclusive and diverse pipeline of entrepreneurs.

P3s for Small Projects, Too. Governing explores the untapped potential of popular public-private-partnerships (P3s) for small development projects, not just large ones. As the article notes, these types of deals are particularly attractive because cities are still slowly recovering from the deep fiscal repercussions of the recession (Related: NLC’s latest City Fiscal Conditions report and NLC’s Lynn Cherry’s blog on P3s.)

New Action Against Predatory Small Business Lending. Several months ago we shared that predatory lending is a growing concern in the small business community, with many business owners paying exorbitantly high interest rates and fees. Good news, there is a new initiative to combat this problem. The Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights pushes for more transparent and fair lending practices, and is a first step towards regulating the alternative lending market.

Idea of the Month: Local Government Address the Gender Wage Gap. Mayor Marty Walsh in Boston developed free workshops for women offering tips on salary negotiation.

What We’re Reading. Want your city to be an innovation hub? Follow Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto’s lead.

Robbins_small (2)About the author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate of Finance and Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.