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What Can Local Governments do to Promote Entrepreneurship?

Posted: March 25, 2015

There are a number of ways local governments and economic development organizations can support local entrepreneurship without spending lots of public dollars.

A recent report by the Kauffman Foundation advises local policy makers and entrepreneurship support organizations to adopt an entrepreneur-centered approach to their strategies for assisting and attracting entrepreneurs. Such strategies should place considerable emphasis on facilitating networking between entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations.

Guidelines for Local and State Governments to Promote Entrepreneurship” recommends the strategy should include events that bring entrepreneurs together to learn and connect. These events go a long way toward creating a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Local government can work with local entrepreneurs to plan and organize events such as a Start-up Weekend that bring together entrepreneurs and small business owners to present business ideas, form teams, or pitch a new business to a group of experts and serial entrepreneurs. Support organizations can work with the local interested entrepreneurs to regularly bring entrepreneurs together in an environment that catalyzes learning and the formation of relationships. These events should allow for entrepreneurs to discuss their challenges and receive feedback and advice from others.

The report provides the following guidelines that should be helpful as you develop a strategy for your community.

  • Avoid creating a formal alliance between government and entrepreneurship organizations. Strict partnerships rarely have a real effect on entrepreneurs. Networks of entrepreneurs in successful regions are seldom the result of government-led programs of any kind.
  • Support or assist interested entrepreneurs and small business owners in their efforts to strengthen and build networks of entrepreneurs.
  • Go beyond networking. Hold events that are of interest to and cover information for the participants and inspire interaction among them. Invite a few entrepreneurs or business owners to discuss the current state of their business and challenges they are facing to generate discussion among participants about potential solutions.
  • Focus events on entrepreneurs’ stages of development. Entrepreneurs find it useful to meet others in the same developmental phase. It is helpful to think of the entrepreneurial process in three phases: Inspirational – potential entrepreneurs searching for opportunities; Start-up – starting a company; Scale-Growth – expanding annual revenue beyond $1 million.
  • Celebrate and recognize successful local entrepreneurs.
  • Revisit your regulatory environment. Streamline your zoning approval process.
  • Welcome immigrants – Immigrants have been twice as likely as native-born Americans to start businesses. Create a welcome environment for all immigrants and embrace ethnic diversity in order to attract job creating immigrant entrepreneurs.
  • Set goals and track your progress.

Local officials interested in growing entrepreneurs need to make a commitment for the long haul. This work requires connecting to the entrepreneurs at the individual level and with the entrepreneurial networks. The process is lengthy and time-intensive.