At the risk of sounding like yet another cliché city planner, I’ll admit that I kept thinking back to a Jane Jacobs quote while our Top Issues Council explored Inclusive Entrepreneurship best practices this past year. In her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane reminded us that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” That same lesson can apply to downtowns and urban places. We can’t have a downtown for everyone that isn’t created by everyone, can we?
What does this mean to our industry? Urban place management organizations (UPMOs) traditionally focus on the core competencies of clean, green, safe, marketing, and events. While most of us genuinely aspire to build a downtown for everybody, specific action to achieve this goal can prove elusive. The key lesson here is that inclusive entrepreneurship must be intentional and treated as a priority. Our Top Issues Council found inspiring examples of UPMOs that are actively engaged in this critical work. These strategies typically fell into one of three main categories:
· Improving capital readiness.
· Access to commercial spaces.
· Developing programs for business retention and sustainability.
UPMOs stand uniquely positioned to help lead this work due to strong relationships, trust and a track record of working in the public interest. We all know UPMOs cannot by themselves solve the structural and systemic inequities that lead to disparities. However, UPMOs bring a unique understanding of their district’s challenges and opportunities. An authentic downtown reflects the people and culture that helped create it. The release of the Inclusive Entrepreneurship brief in August coincides with National Black Business Month which highlights the vital role of Black-owned businesses to the overall economy. In 2022, there are 1.2 million self-employed Black entrepreneurs in the U.S. (Source: census.gov, sba.gov).
Diversity and equity won’t happen by accident. In ways large and small, we’re inspired by our peers that have decided to get off the sidelines and take steps to lower barriers and increase opportunity.
To learn more about the 2022 Inclusive Entrepreneurship Top Issues Council Report Brief, please visit IDA’s Publications page. The brief is free for IDA members. There will also be an Inclusive Entrepreneurship Facilitated Forum during IDA’s 68th Annual Conference & Marketplace in Vancouver, BC on Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 3:45 pm PT. Review the conference program here.