Small business startups create economic mobility

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Note: This article is part of our State of the City project, in which The Dallas Morning News explores the most critical issues facing our communities. Find more topics in our look at the Dallas economy in the coming days.


A lot of positive changes have come from our on-demand consumer economy. Access to products and services has never been easier or more equitably distributed than it is today, when anyone living virtually anywhere in the U.S. can go online, find exactly what they need and have it shipped directly to them, typically in 48 hours or less.

In many communities, however, this convenience culture has contributed to a decline in the number of small businesses that provided jobs and kept neighborhoods thriving. Residents who used to be employed at a small soap manufacturer, a jewelry maker, a corner bakery have had to look for work elsewhere. Where they used to be able to walk or ride a bike to work, people now must have access to other transportation.

A sign outside of Bank of America Plaza tower notifying people of window washers in downtown Dallas photographed on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. It is the tallest building in Dallas. (Shaban Athuman/Staff Photographer)(Shaban Athuman / Staff Photographer)

Addressing this issue is even more critical as we work toward a post-COVID economic recovery. Small businesses and the entrepreneurs who lead them have a direct positive impact on their communities.

When we think about rebooting Dallas, this is where we need to start: lifting up the small businesses, startups and community partners that suffered so much in the pandemic. Too often, when we talk about improving the economy in low-income areas, our focus turns to recruiting outside businesses at the exclusion of investing in home-grown talent.

We have an opportunity to bring more entrepreneurs into the fold, especially minority business owners who have often lacked access to the same resources as their white peers, so they can create more jobs. In a recent Ipsos Public Affairs survey conducted by Bank of America, 56% of Black business owners reported that challenges accessing capital have limited their business’ growth. This is a gap Dallas needs to close.

We need to support longtime residents who want to start their own businesses by connecting them to sources of capital and mentorship. Our communities are filled with people who are open to starting businesses. Imagine the impact if they can get off the ground and provide jobs with living wages to their neighbors. Those employees, in turn, will spend some of their wages locally, creating a ripple effect that lifts the entire community.

Emily Horner Ledet is market executive at Bank of America for the Dallas-Fort Worth region. As part of her role, she oversees the bank’s philanthropic and sponsorship investments to address social and economic concerns and build strong communities. She also is a member of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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