“The word is commitment. Commitments are what we’re looking for”.
That is how NLC CEO, Clarence Anthony, opened a virtual meeting with mayors and economic staff from more than 100 cities in early July. On the table was whether these community leaders would make tangible policy commitments to more inclusive and equitable economic development practices.
That the dual national crises currently facing America – COVID-19 and police brutality – both disparately impact Black and Latino Americans is well documented. The impact of structural racism is much farther reaching than public health and safety, however. Wealth creation and economic opportunity have systematically been denied to BIPOC communities through deeply embedded legal, financial, and cultural mechanisms. Offices of local economic development play an important role in this system – and they can play an important role in dismantling it.
In collaboration with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, NLC’s City Innovation Ecosystems Program asks community leaders to commit to specific local economic development practices proven to remove barriers to entrepreneurship and create fairer economies. By making a commitment, participating mayors and economic staff are connected to nationally recognized technical assistance providers, at no cost to the city, who specializes in the implementation of the city’s chosen initiative.
In small cohorts of cities, community leaders will work on initiatives like:
- Rethinking legacy procurement practices to be more inclusive of small businesses and businesses owned by people of color and women.
- Expanding access to capital for early-stage entrepreneurs through new microlending or equity crowdfunding mechanisms.
- Ensuring the leadership of local economic development institutions is representative of the communities they serve.
- Integrating entrepreneurship support into the core priorities of the city’s office of local economic development.
- Exploring non-punitive measures that allow informal entrepreneurs to come into compliance and to grow their businesses.
Here is NLC’s current president, Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino, highlighting the program:
While systems of economic oppression are complex, the moral imperative to act is not. Going “back to normal” is not an option. Encourage your mayor and/or local economic development staff to commit to rebuilding better by registering for the City Innovation Ecosystems Commitment Program and the Kauffman Mayor’s Conference on Entrepreneurship.
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