Solving Cities

5 ways businesses can revitalize cities

Posting in Cities

Want to make sure your business is supporting a thriving city? Follow these steps.

Mayors in cities across the U.S. are working to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in their cities. But it's just as important that businesses take steps to help the city and community around them to thrive.

Steven Pedigo, vice president of communications for the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, writes five tips, in Inc. Magazine, for businesses that want to be successful in cities while supporting the growth and economic health of the city.

Here are his top five suggestions:

1. Hire locally.

Employees who live and work locally are more engaged, and their employers enjoy increased employee retention and reduced fringe costs. Seeking talent locally and promoting from within is good for your neighborhood too: it boosts local employment rates and drives dollars back into your community.

2. Invest in your employees.

The fastest-growing urban firms spend 5% of payroll on training, compared to 2% spent by the average large corporation. That helps them cut employee turnover by half.

3. Buy locally.

Sourcing business supplies from your own zip code can be efficient, community-minded and sustainable. Seventy-two percent of the fastest-growing urban firms purchase locally.

4. Collaborate and cluster.

Rather than viewing similar business as competition, look to them as collaborative partners and as part of your  support network. As companies in similar industries collaborate, they create a swarming effect and draw others to them.

5. Skip on the suburban office park and move your business into a city.

With the recent economic downturn, city real estate is more affordable than one would think.  Small businesses can change the entire fabric of a community by investing in vacant office and industrial space.

Want to learn from someone who is already doing this? Check out what Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is doing in Las Vegas. He's moving the company headquarters to downtown and investing $350 million in upgrades to the neighborhood surrounding the company's new headquarters. The idea is to create the inertia in the business community to attract startups and other businesses to the area, while making an investment in the city itself. But Pedigo says it doesn't have to be one major company that turns around a city. Change can happen at a much smaller scale.

Small businesses, which account for 99.7% of all U.S. companies, also are responsible for the majority of new jobs created over the last two decades, and will continue to fuel the economy as the country re-urbanizes.

How Cities and Businesses Can Grow Together [Inc.]

Photo: Dustin Diaz/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure