As Oakland undergoes rapid development and increased gentrification, small businesses – especially those owned by people of color – find themselves in an increasingly challenging environment. In a new white paper, Advancing Racial Equity in the City of Oakland’s Small Business Ecosystem
, the Small Business Advisory Group convened by The Greenlining Institute lays out a series of recommendations for how Oakland can help preserve and grow its diverse small business community.
“We commend the city of Oakland for placing racial equity front and center in its 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy, and for seeking to build wealth in communities of color through entrepreneurship,” said white paper author Sharon Velasquez, Greenlining’s senior economic equity program manager. “The racial wealth gap, built through decades of redlining, will take concerted effort to close. The Small Business Advisory Group hopes its recommendations will jump-start a decisive policy agenda aimed at creating a small business ecosystem where Oakland’s entrepreneurs of color can thrive. We offer the city our partnership for implementation and look forward to convening with the Economic and Workforce Development Department regarding next steps.”
Key recommendations of the report include:
Prioritize the creation of a thriving economy by investing in the Economic and Workforce Development Department and Business Assistance Center. By ensuring adequate staffing and robust small business supports, the city will advance economic equity by providing entrepreneurs with critical resources for success. The Business Assistance Center urgently needs expanded hours, a revamped website and satellite locations around Oakland.
Collect data on the rate of commercial displacement across Oakland. Presently, no comprehensive data set on commercial displacement exists for Oakland that identifies the number of small businesses at risk of being displaced, the number of small businesses of color that have closed, nor the reasons why. In addition, the city should use data collection platforms to better understand the state of local small businesses.
Explore the implementation of commercial tenant protections. Though state law limits what can be done in this area, all possibilities should be explored.
Align all city plans so they all contain a racial equity lens, in line with the vision of the 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy and the Race & Equity Ordinance.
Expand transparency and community engagement opportunities as the Economic Development Strategy and other strategic plans are implemented. This should include increased outreach to and communication with both individual business owners and Oakland’s ethnic chambers of commerce.