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LB vice mayor proposes partnership with nonprofit crowdfunding platform to support start-ups

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It seems as though Long Beach entrepreneurs will soon have an easier time opening up small businesses as a result of an economic inclusion initiative called “Everyone In.”

Long Beach Vice Mayor Rex Richardson announced the initiative on Nov. 1 as part of the City’s newly adopted Blueprint for Economic Development plan— a roadmap for the next decade detailing financial steps the City should take.

Everyone In builds upon recommendations outlined in the blueprint by providing Long Beach entrepreneurs, small-business owners and low-income communities with pathways to economic opportunities.

“Here in America, here in Long Beach, we have to be involved entirely in the business of providing opportunity,” said Richardson in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “No matter what part of town you are from, no matter what your ethnic background is, your gender orientation, your socioeconomic status, you deserve an opportunity to plug in at some place in our economy.”

Starting a business oftentimes requires a dependable capital backbone for things such as utilities and employee salaries. Richardson said that there are various factors in today’s economy that hinder black and Latino individuals, in particular, from attaining funding for entrepreneurial ventures.

According to a report in the city council’s agenda, Long Beach is home to more than 9,800 small businesses, which employ nearly 100,000 people.

“Small businesses employing less than 10 employees account for 86.8 percent of all Long Beach businesses, excluding home-based businesses and commercial and residential property licenses,” the report reads.

It also mentions that these small businesses often employ the “most vulnerable groups in the workforce.”

Everyone In partners Long Beach with Kiva, which is a nonprofit, online micro-finance platform that works to expand access to financial services for small-business owners.

According to the report, there are 16 cities across the United States with the “Kiva City” designation. Since 2005, Kiva has crowdfunded more than 2.4 million loans, totaling over $1 billion. With a global repayment rate of 97 percent, the Kiva platform has attracted a community of over 1.6 million lenders from 180 different countries.

Richardson said that investors can pick and choose as to who would receive the loan, ensuring the money actually reaches the intended small businesses.

“As a donor, you can select which businesses you want to loan money to,” Richardson said. “The City doesn’t make that choice for you. We just create the platform to give you the choice to invest in whatever you want.”

On Tuesday, the city council approved a proposal for the initiative that asked City officials to conduct an economic-equity study to collect data for Everyone In.

Aside from designating Long Beach as a “Kiva City,” the proposal also increased funding in the General Fund for the Economic Development Department by $25,000.

The increase was offset by the 1st, 5th, 6th and 9th council districts’ one-time infrastructure funds transferred from the Capital Projects Fund in the Public Works Department account.

In addition, the transferred money from the Capital Projects Fund would be used to support education programs for Long Beach youth to discuss economic trends and ways to save money.

“One of the most important parts is making sure that this isn’t just another plan sitting on a big shelf somewhere,” Richardson said. “We want to make sure that this is something tangible and a real implementation strategy that could really make a difference.”

The proposal also included “listening tours” for the Everyone In initiative that allow officials to hear from the public and use the people’s input to better organize the economic plan.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Richardson said the Economic Development Department would collect and analyze data from the tours approximately six months from now to report back on its findings.

Randal Hernandez, Economic Development Department chair, said during Tuesday’s meeting that the most difficult part of economic inclusion is to reach out to multi-cultural communities.

“One of the things that we hope to accomplish with this is to really bring together a lot of the stakeholders and the resources that are available throughout Long Beach to the table and have a very frank discussion on all these items,” Hernandez said.

Moving forward, the approved proposal also supports the hiring of a new, temporary part-time staff member to oversee the partnership with Kiva. This individual would help the crowdfunding company “get off the ground” in Long Beach, according to the vice mayor.

Starting in January, the listening tours for Everyone In will commence, which will give residents the opportunity to let City officials know how the initiative could best be used to help them start a new business.

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LB vice mayor proposes partnership with nonprofit crowdfunding platform to support start-ups