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Local leaders recognize and often publicly tout the importance of a strong, growing entrepreneurial and small business community. Yet, when it comes to supporting entrepreneurs in practice, many local leaders are unsure how they can make a real impact. Experts suggest that one essential element for entrepreneurial growth is the presence of an "eco system" or "culture." Given the various dimensions and actors that can create eco systems - including universities, large and small businesses and their leadership, entrepreneurial support programs, workforce skills, financing, and probably a bit of luck - do local governments really have a role to play? Research by the National League of Cities' Center for Research and Innovation suggests that they do.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy in the United States. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Office of Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration documented that small businesses accounted for over 92% of the net new jobs creation between 1989 and 2003. The smallest among the small businesses (those employing fewer than 20 employees) accounted for 85% of the net new job creation over the same period. In essence, the vast majority of the new jobs created in the economy come from the very small businesses. Of the total 21.8 million jobs created between 1989 and 2003, small businesses under 20 employees created 18.6 million jobs, small businesses with between 20 and 500 employees created 1.5 million jobs, and large businesses and companies (with over 500 employees) created only 1.7 million jobs. Similarly, while small businesses created net new jobs in 12 of those 14 years, large businesses eliminated more jobs than they created in 5 of those 14 years.
An analysis of more than 4,200 economic development incentive awards in 14 states finds that large companies received dominant shares, ranging between 80 and 96 percent of their dollar values. The deals, worth more than $3.2 billion, were granted in recent years by programs that, on their faces, are equally accessible to small and large companies. Yet big businesses overall were awarded 90 percent of the dollars from the programs analyzed, indicating a profound bias against small businesses.
Economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive economies. Strategies driven by local assets and realities, a diverse industry base and a commitment to equality of opportunity and sustainable practices have emerged as those that will ensure a strong foundation for long-term stability and growth. Even within the parameters of these principles, what constitutes success in economic development and the specific strategies to accomplish it will look different from place to place. Despite these differences, leadership is consistently identified as a critical factor in effective economic development. Dedicated leadership is needed to raise awareness, help develop and communicate a common vision, and motivate stakeholders into action.
Businesses owned by people of color create jobs and build wealth in communities of color. Yet despite rapid growth of entrepreneurship among people of color - and women of color in particular - these businesses face significant barriers to growth and success. Government spending on construction, goods, and services is a potential opportunity to advance economic inclusion, but municipalities often under-contract with businesses owned by people of color.
The intensification of economic inequality, one of the defining issues of our times, has many causes, ranging from the weakening of labor unions to the decimation of inheritance taxes. This report argues that another factor belongs on the list: subsidies given by state and local governments to large corporations in the name of economic development.
We examine how within-firm skill premia - wage differentials associated with jobs involving different skill requirements - vary both across firms and over time. Our firm-level results mirror patterns found in aggregate wage trends, except that we find them with regard to increases in firm size. In particular, we find that wage differentials between high- and either medium- or low-skill jobs increase with firm size, while those between medium- and low-skill jobs are either invariant to firm size or, if anything, slightly decreasing. We find the same pattern within firms over time, suggesting that rising wage inequality - even nuanced patterns, such as divergent trends in upper- and lower-tail inequality - may be related to firm growth. We explore two possible channels: i) wages associated with "routine" job tasks are relatively lower in larger firms due to a higher degree of automation in these firms, and ii) larger firms pay relatively lower entry-level managerial wages in return for providing better career opportunities. Lastly, we document a strong and positive relation between within-country variation in firm growth and rising wage inequality for a broad set of developed countries. In fact, our results suggest that part of what may be perceived as a global trend toward more wage inequality may be driven by an increase in employment by the largest firms in the economy.
We estimate the effects of Wal-Mart stores on county-level retail employment and earnings, accounting for endogeneity of the location and timing of Wal-Mart openings that most likely biases the evidence against finding adverse effects of Wal-Mart stores. We address the endogeneity problem using a natural instrumental variables approach that arises from the geographic and time pattern of the opening of Wal-Mart stores, which slowly spread out from the first stores in Arkansas. The employment results indicate that aWal-Mart store opening reduces county-level retail employment by about 150 workers, implying that each Wal-Mart worker replaces approximately 1.4 retail workers. This represents a 2.7 percent reduction in average retail employment. The payroll results indicate that Wal-Mart store openings lead to declines in county-level retail earnings of about $1.4 million, or 1.5 percent. Of course, these effects occurred against a backdrop of rising retail employment, and only imply lower retail employment growth than would have occurred absent the effects of Wal-Mart.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance's 7th annual Independent Business Survey gathered data from 2,602 independent, locally owned businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The respondents encompass a range of business types. A little over half are retailers. The remainder include a mix of service providers, manufacturers, farmers, banks, restaurants, wholesalers, and others. These businesses employ a total of 30,049 people. They range in age from recent start-ups to businesses founded more than a century ago. The median age is 13 years.
We document a negative correlation, at business cycle frequencies, between the net job creation rate of large employers and the level of aggregate unemployment that is much stronger than for small employers. The differential growth rate of employment between initially large and small employers has an unconditional correlation of -0.5 with the unemployment rate, and varies by about 5 percent over the business cycle.