Economic Development strategies for at-risk small business
Building on our last post about innovative ways local governments are tapping into data provide housing security to at-risk residents, we also wanted to highlight some of the work our partner cities and towns are doing to support small businesses. Many cities have had to create or expand their economic development strategies for at-risk small businesses as a result of covid-19.
Prior to the pandemic, we had been working with a large West Coast city to identify businesses at-risk of displacement from rising real estate prices, expansion of public transit, and other market forces (more on that work to come). This involved using BuildingBlocks to integrate & map data on:
- business type
- employee count
- redevelopment activity
- MWBE status
- and more…
Within BuildingBlocks, we were running a dynamic predictive model that looks at risk of closure or displacement on a business-by-business basis. The city’s economic development team had been using these insights to better understand the scale of past & potential displacement and to target small business support efforts.
When COVID hit, the team immediately pivoted to identifying hard-hit businesses based on their sector (like food & beverage), employee count, pre-COVID risk levels, and location (compared to virus hot-spots). So in addition to communicating available resources broadly across the city, these local officials could hyper-target their outreach to the businesses that would be most impacted by the shut-down. Longer term, with BuildingBlocks in place, they can measure which commercial districts & businesses show the most resiliency, which are slower to bounce back, and which never recover.
Across the country, a small town in western New York took a different approach to identifying at-risk businesses and tracking the health of the commercial sector: they asked the business owners. We helped town officials sent out a digital survey through the local chamber of commerce to get data on lost revenues, employee retention, long-term outlook, and more. The structure of this survey was critical because the economic development officers wanted to be able to quantify the impact of COVID and track . Their responses are fed directly back into BuildingBlocks, so the insights can be mapped and integrated with all of the other data the town is tracking on community health.
Regardless of size, it is now more important than ever for cities to develop economic development strategies for at-risk small businesses. As we always recommend start small today and build up your capacity. Don’t delay because your data isn’t perfect yet.