Small businesses fuel the economy, and local government leaders across the country are leveraging their unique positions to help support and develop these enterprises.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses have played an important role in helping the nation recover from the recession. According to National League of Cities (NLC) materials, small businesses created 63 percent of new jobs between mid-2009 and 2012.

In their toolkit, titled Big Ideas for Small Business, the NLC discusses strategies local leaders can employ to foster small business ecosystems in their communities. Some of the strategies discussed include:

  • Connecting Small Businesses to Information and Resources – One of the roles city leaders play in fostering small businesses is to provide access to information, advice and training geared towards improving the capacity of business owners. This information can be shared in a variety of ways: online, at a business resource center or out in the community.    
  • Engaging the Local Business Community – Small businesses often need additional, on-the-ground support to meet their potential. City leaders should partner with local private sector leaders familiar with their communities that can provide a deeper level of support to small businesses. Neighborhood chambers of commerce are one available resource.
  • Creating Incubator Spaces – Many cities have built incubator spaces – shared working areas made available at low or no cost to entrepreneurs working on start-up projects. In addition to providing affordable office space where start-ups can begin to grow, incubators also provide access to business mentors, potential investors and other networking opportunities.
  • Streamlining City Regulations and the Inspection Process - By making the regulatory and inspections process easier and more transparent, local businesses will not become bogged down and can get off the ground quickly and efficiently.   

High failure rates for small businesses, especially in the start-up stage, demonstrate a need for municipal support, according to the NLC. As a result, a growing number of cities are helping develop their small business communities by providing additional tools and resources to help business owners. Among these cities are:

Kansas City: The Kansas City Business Customer Service Center, or KCBizcare, opened June 1, 2009, as a separate entity under the City Manager's Office to provide enhanced services to the small business community. Among the center’s services are business-specific roadmaps for opening a business and public access to zoning information, public records and online applications. The Center also helps refer small business owners to relevant city departments, agencies and partner organizations involved in regulation or business assistance.

Chicago: The Neighborhood Small Business Strategy is the first comprehensive strategy to better support small businesses though the city’s Small Business Center (SBC). The Center provides training on topics related to permitting, licensing, zoning and inspections. In addition to training, the SBC provides tools to help delegate agencies better serve small businesses.

Detroit: In 2013, the Detroit Business Support Network launched the Detroit BizGrid, an infographic that shows small businesses what resources are available at various stages of development.

For more information on cities working to develop small businesses, or for more advice on how to do so in your own city, download the full report or watch the video below.

 

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