The American inner city is easy to ignore, particularly with non-inner city urban centers thriving and bustling. But for those who are looking to stay local and true to their inner city neighborhood, such as Washington D.C., starting up a business in hopes that it grows and flourishes can be a daunting task without their proper resources, avenues and strategies in place. The truth of the matter is, revitalizing such inner city business activity is crucial for local employment opportunities, which have a rippling effect on the economy of the state and the country as a whole.
This revitalization can come after peeling through the veils of negative images of inner city opportunities. The fact is, there is plenty of opportunity for healthy businesses to grow in inner city cores, in cities like Washington DC., and it is only through acknowledging and accepting this fact that economic development can begin and soar. Dealing with present hurdles and disadvantages of inner city business locations is also an important challenge that must be dealt with – this can only be done with the help of agencies associated with the government or other non-profit organizations to provide the knowledge and financial assistance to properly plan, execute and invest in successful inner city businesses.
There are always government agencies that can be tapped into for assistance for capital and other managerial assistance. The SBA (Small Business Administration) has been working to boost entrepreneurship in various U.S. inner cities in underserved markets. In areas suffering from unemployment and poverty that were historically ignored, the SBA has been making efforts to reach out to these centers and bolster entrepreneurial success in order to create new jobs, attract private investment, and create a more stable economic base.
Part of the problem that inner city businesses are facing is the difficulty in gaining access to the capital necessary to get their business off the ground without fizzling out soon after take-off. As such, the SBA has modified its loan program to make it much simpler for lenders and borrowers to use funds necessary for inner city business ventures. In fact, according to the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, inner city businesses are the largest source of new jobs in inner cities. With such promise, it’s essential to continue to provide inner city business owners with the financial means and planning requirements necessary to continue its growth.
To further enhance the efforts of revitalizing inner city business growth, the SBA has also been working along side with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) to support the financial and enriching needs of up-and-coming inner city businesses.
For almost 20 years, ICIC has been studying inner city economies in 100 U.S. areas, in addition to providing consulting services. From this, ICIC has uncovered a set of strategies and best practices in order to assist inner city companies to grow and create employment opportunities for locals in their communities.
ICIC uses an approach to help identify market opportunities for retailers looking to open up shop in particular urban centers. This organization also helps to promote access to much-needed capital so that inner city businesses owners can get off to a healthy start. ICIC also educates business owners and managers to give them the tools necessary to continue to lead their company to grand success.
But it is the private sector that truly needs to be mobilized to play a central role in developing the economy in these inner city centers. The good news is that the private sector has finally taken notice of the potential of inner city business success, and the positive ripple effect it can have on employment for locals and on the economy of the entire city as a whole. As such, investments have already begun in inner cities of Washington DC and other American inner cities to break down negative perceptions of inner city economy and eradicating long-standing problems in these areas. With continued efforts, private sectors and other organizations can start turning from direct financial and managerial help to preparing and training the business owners of these inner city companies to promote a healthy business environment.
Case in Point – FoBoGro
Every year, ICIC puts out a list of 100 of the fastest growing inner city businesses in the country. These companies are being run by some of the most innovative and hard-working entrepreneurs, who are also creating solid job opportunities for many locals. These Inner City 100 companies are literally putting inner city America to work, while revitalizing these communities at the same time.
FoBoGro – or ‘Foggy Bottom Grocery’ – is an inner city Washington D.C. grocery store and sandwich shop that gas rapidly grown into substantial profits since its inception. This bustling business got some assistance from investors who believed in the integrity of the inner city business model, through the George Washington University alumni network. Owners Kris Hart and Devlin Keating initially purchased this dwindling business, and used all resources necessary to turn it around into a million dollar company. Kris and Devlin were able to realize a 33% growth over 5 years, and turn out $1.1 million in revenues in 2010.
Initially a grocery store, Kris and Devlin added an eatery aspect to it to attract even more customers. Located near a local college, FoBoGro offers students a one-stop-shop for all their grocery needs. To take things a step further in support of the community, this grocery store employs local college students to help keep the economy going in this area of Washington D.C.
It’s a fact that inner city businesses create 3 times more jobs for inner city locals than other businesses outside these areas. This proves that not only should private investors look more favorably to these inner cities for economic investment and expansion, but also that inner city businesses can thrive and enjoy amazing competitive benefits.