I derive my inspiration from the words of the Prophet Isaiah 58:10 in which he says, “If you offer your compassion to the hungry and relieve the oppressed, then shall your light shine in darkness and your gloom shall be like noonday… You will be known as the rebuilder of ancient walls, the restorer of dwelling places, the repairer of the breach.”
There is a breach in our society; we all know it. Today’s society is characterized by severe economic insecurity, particularly in our urban neighborhoods. Our inner cities are severely challenged; they contain 34% of America’s minority poverty. The key question is: what can we do about it? While we are never going to be able to provide equal outcomes for everyone, we must work every day to create equal opportunity for all.
In 1994, Michael Porter started ICIC to catalyze inner city economic revitalization. He wrote a well-known paper in 1997 that talked about the competitive advantages of our inner cities. Those advantages include population density, purchasing power and their proximity to transportation hubs. More specifically, their advantage can be a workforce of men and women who are educated, trained, and mentored to become a powerful force for economic growth and for wealth creation that will affect a whole generation of inner city residents.
We need to look at small inner cities not as problems, but as opportunities. We can change the face of inner city America by catalyzing revitalization through private sector growth and securing the debt and equity capital to finance that growth. Inner city small business owners can compete successfully for capital and by doing so have the ability to finance receivables and inventory, start a new product line, expand their team, or buy a piece of equipment essential for growth.
Small businesses are where most of the jobs in America are actually created --more than 60% of new jobs are created there according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). If we can stimulate small business growth and development in inner cities, we can create healthy, vibrant, and sustainable small business ecosystems. These companies will grow, develop, and flourish and will create good-paying jobs as a result. The creation of jobs will lead to dynamic changes in the quality of people's lives in areas where there are high levels of poverty and unemployment. That’s because the wealth that is created can be reinvested to nurture better wellness outcomes including healthier food and nutrition for children, better education outcomes, better housing outcomes -- better outcomes for every family.
Once we understand this relationship between good jobs and human dignity we’ll see that in a very real sense, to nurture the small business ecosystem is a vital means of offering compassion to the needy and relieving the oppressed.
Steve Grossman is CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), dedicated to achieving economic prosperity in America’s inner cities.The above is adapted from his remarks at the launch of The Busch School's collaboration with ICIC, bringing its ICCC program to the DC area for the first time. He is also a speaker at the 2018 Principled Entrepreneurship Conference on the topic of Dignity of Work, to be held Oct-3-5.