Sacramento is booming again. The region was among the top 10 in the U.S. for economic growth in 2015-16. Yet as the Brookings Institution also reported, this new prosperity is not evenly spread out among the rich and poor and within minority communities.
So as leaders of chambers of commerce, we wonder how to help minority neighborhoods prosper as well.
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You can easily see what we mean. Take a drive along the commercial corridors in Del Paso Heights, Florin Road or Oak Park, and you’ll find aging strip malls, shuttered businesses and vast expanses of asphalt without trees and landscaping.
The recent effort to attract Amazon’s headquarters was laudable. But we know that 80 percent of new jobs are created by existing businesses and that 80 percent of existing jobs are at small businesses. That’s why we believe there needs to be a compounded effort to revitalize our minority neighborhoods.
What if local agencies allocated to these communities those millions in grants, reduced and deferred fees and property tax rebates designated for enticing Amazon? Every small business and commercial property owner would benefit immensely from that kind of deal.
Let’s eliminate building, permit and inspection fees for businesses that want to improve their store facades and interiors. Let’s reduce signage restrictions and fees. Let’s cut business license fees, especially for entrepreneurs starting a new firm. Let’s have building departments partner with universities’ architectural and engineering departments to offer low-cost design services.
If local officials can offer a package of incentives for Amazon, they certainly can do likewise for enterprises are already here, employing local residents and pumping money into the economy.
Earlier this year, Sacramento State University launched the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, established with a $6 million gift from Dale and Katy Carlsen, founders of Sleep Train Mattress centers. The center will grow entrepreneurs and stand as an attractive resource to retain our young people and help them start new businesses here.
If the center’s work is coupled with local incentives, we can create a powerful tool for building an inclusive economy. There is a huge demographic reason to do so: Asians, African Americans and Hispanics are driving population growth among young adults so economic development efforts should ensure that all residents are equipped to succeed in the modern economy.
If we invest in blighted neighborhoods, in existing small businesses and in young people graduating from local colleges, we can create new jobs and create an economy where prosperity is shared.
Azizza Davis Goines is president & CEO of the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pat Fong Kushida is president & CEO of the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce and can be contacted at email@example.com. Cathy Rodriguez is president & CEO of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.