• Cathy O’Connor

Study gives direction for small business support


Small businesses are key to our economy; in Oklahoma, more than 50% of the private workforce is employed by small businesses and approximately two out of three people in the Oklahoma City metro work for a business with under 100 employees. Yet many business owners, especially people of color, face challenges accessing capital, utilizing incentives, and participating in expanding economic opportunities.

Last week, consultants from Ernst & Young presented findings and recommendations from their Economic Resiliency Study to the City Council. The study found that business ownership by race doesn’t reflect Oklahoma City’s population. Black residents make up 13% of the city’s population but own only 2% of businesses, and Latin people make up 21% of the population and 5% of business ownership. Business owners and entrepreneurs surveyed reported challenges accessing capital, lack of knowledge about how to access business support or resources and lack of certain business skills.

Ernst & Young made recommendations to create a variety of flexible capital programs to help small and midsize businesses, especially entrepreneurs, women, people of color and those who may not qualify for traditional lending.

Recommendations also included placemaking strategies including physical redevelopment and programming in spaces where businesses can access business support services, resources and technical assistance. It also includes support for development and redevelopment in historically disinvested neighborhoods.

Ernst & Young suggests that Oklahoma City develop more programs and initiatives to provide direct support to aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners, and real estate developers, especially among disadvantaged populations. Examples include a business accelerator to connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors, office space, supply chains and more.

Finally, as a city and state, we’ll be looking at our existing local and state incentives such as the Strategic Investment Program, Quality Jobs Program and the Business Expansion Program to identify ways to utilize them to provide support for startups, businesses owned by people of color and other populations.

The study is a partnership between the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, Progress OKC and the city of Oklahoma City. Our city is continually ranked as one of the best places to own a small business and the work to implement the suggestions in this study will improve economic resiliency for small businesses, minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

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