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Podcast: Growing an Inclusive Business Ecosystem

How the city of Long Beach seeds entrepreneurship and economic vitality in all of its neighborhoods

The City Accelerator initiative is a collaboration between Governing, the City Foundation and Living Cities that aims to speed the adoption of innovative local government projects within and across cities that will have a significant impact on the lives of their residents, especially those with low incomes.

Small businesses, especially those owned by people of color, are threatened by the financial impact of COVID-19. A network of practitioners dedicated to the prosperity of small businesses matters now more than ever. Together, five cities -- Atlanta, El Paso, Long Beach, Newark and Rochester -- partnered with City Accelerator to explore how they can play a role in facilitating the equitable growth of their local businesses. With support from subject-matter expert, Rod Miller, President and CEO of Ascendant Global, cities identified and implemented inclusive strategies to help their local businesses thrive.

Listen to learn how the City of Long Beach partnered with City Accelerator to support the growth of an inclusive business ecosystem in its city. For immediate guidance on how Long Beach is supporting small businesses during COVID-19, check out the resources on its website.

This podcast series was recorded live from Long Beach in June 2019, where the cities gathered to share lessons learned and successes from their participation in the City Accelerator. In this episode, the City of Long Beach shares its approach to ensuring access to resources for businesses owned by people of color.

Guests featured in this episode include:

If you’re interested in learning more or bringing these lessons to your city, sign up to be notified when the City Accelerator Local Business and Job Growth Implementation Guide is released.


Paul Taylor: Live from MADE by Millworks Space for Creatives in Long Beach, California, the home of the original Rosie the Riveter! This is Living for the City!

Five cities on a mission to level up the economic opportunities for entrepreneurs of color -- a mission supported by the nonprofit, Living Cities, and the Citi Foundation. I'm Paul Taylor, from Governing, along with Rod Miller, Founder, President and CEO of Ascendant Global, and the cohort lead for this 18-month journey on local business and job growth.

This time out, Long Beach, California, our host city in this gathering of cities field-testing approaches to racial equity. 

Erick Serrato: Buenos Dias. My name is Erick Serrato, and I'm a manager in the City's Economic Development department. 

Paul: In this community fueled by startups, there is an almost religious creed around economic development -- a trinity, if you will -- “start up, stay up and scale up.” How is Long Beach ensuring that more businesses, particularly those owned by people of color, survive and grow over time on those last two in the trinity: “stay up and scale up”?

Erick:  Sure. One of the things that we're doing through the City Accelerator grant is making sure that those entrepreneurs have access to peer mentors. We've got a rich network of other individuals of color that have gotten to that stage in their development and are thriving, and we want to make sure that we're connecting them. It's also about making sure that they have seamless access to all the resources in the city to make sure that they're able to scale at the pace that they want to.

Paul: The city has been deliberate and it has invested in publishing the economic development blueprint in a number of languages. Why does that matter?

Erick: That's foundational to what Long Beach is about, which is equal access. We want to be in the communities that we serve. We want to seed entrepreneurship and economic vitality in every one of Long Beach’s neighborhoods. Making sure that those materials are in the languages that our residents feel most comfortable in is just foundational to the way that we think about entrepreneurship. 

Rod Miller: What are some of the highlights of this economic development blueprint? 

Erick: The city looks at folks in terms of job seekers or workers, business owners and entrepreneurs, and investors. It takes residents and other stakeholders through a series of different initiatives that impact each of those three groups. We're actively looking at ways of expanding access for entrepreneurs of color for first-time entrepreneurs, for making sure that the city is a place where you would want to invest, open up a business, and raise your family.

Rod:  For those who don't know, could you talk a little bit about the kind of the demographics of the city and how that impacts how you deliver your economic development services?

Erick: Absolutely. That's a great source of pride for us. Long Beach is always listed in the top five most diverse cities in the nation. We have the largest Cambodian community outside of Cambodia. Our Latino population is reflective of the state, always around 40%. And we've got a very strong, historic African American community that's been part of Long Beach from its very beginnings. So when we apply that knowledge to the lens of our work, it means making sure that we are directly connected to what matters most in each of those communities. Language was one thing we just talked about, but it's also making sure that we have the right liaisons for our work, that we are connecting to the industry champions and business owners in each of those communities to make sure that we are connecting to all parts of the city all the time.

Paul: Great. Love the attitude, and thank you for hosting us this week. 

Erick: It's our pleasure.

Paul W. Taylor is the Executive Editor at e.Republic and of its flagship titles - Governing and Government Technology. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @pwtaylor.
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