New Toolkit Aims to Help Small Businesses Stay in Place

By Maggie Haslam / Oct 7, 2021

Black owned business sign in window
Image Caption
Photo courtesy of Sid Espinosa, '20.

An arsenal of strategies to help small businesses purchase their real estate, maintain affordable rents, organize commercial cooperatives and more hopes to help them survive—and thrive—in gentrifying neighborhoods across the country. Compiled as part of the University of Maryland’s Small Business Anti-Displacement Network (SBAN), the interactive toolkit is a collection of more than 20 implementable strategies for small business leaders, including advocates, policymakers and technical assistance providers to protect vulnerable businesses—especially those owned by immigrants and people of color—from displacement, closure and the ongoing strains of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Gentrification in many cities has not let up during the pandemic. The pandemic only made the pressures more intense. There are a lot of small businesses that are feeling the strain right now, and not enough knowledge about the policies and practices that can help them stay in place,” said Dr. Willow Lung-Amam, SBAN’s director.

The toolkit was amassed through extensive research on scholarship, policies and practices affecting commercial gentrification and small business displacement across the country. It offers a tailored roadmap of tools that highlight existing programs and innovative approaches. Users can find strategies that address their organizational needs as well as challenges unique to small businesses or the neighborhoods in which they live, with searchable topics by interest or location.  

Each tool offers specifics on implementation, strengths and challenges and provides examples of how it has been used on the ground; the legacy small business preservation tool highlights efforts in San Francisco, which have provided grants to more than 230 established businesses and nonprofits since 2014.  

“Most of these businesses and organizations work in silos,” explained SBAN Project Manager Kiara Garland. “People are inundated with the work so they don’t have the ability to necessarily share what they’re doing. The toolkit can help those small business leaders access strategies to very specific challenges they might be facing and offers action items they can implement right now.”

Garland emphasizes that the toolkit is more than just a resource for small business leaders: it’s a call to action. As SBAN continues to expand its national network of business owners, policymakers, scholars and community stakeholders, the toolkit will also continue to grow, taking advantage of the expertise of its extensive network of members from across the country.  

“This is a jumping off point,” she says.

The interactive toolkit is also available as a printed toolkit, providing an easy-to-reference report of curated best practices from across the country for local organizations and policymakers. The toolkit is a prelude to SBAN’s efforts to bring its members together for virtual peer-learning groups later this year to build and exchange knowledge, resources and capacity around promising anti-displacement strategies.

Launched this spring through a $3 million philanthropic investment, The Small Business Anti-Displacement Network is galvanizing over 100 small business leaders to evaluate and share successful place-based interventions, and to create tools and push policies to prevent the displacement or closure of vulnerable businesses. The project focuses on businesses most at-risk to displacement, including business owned by immigrants and people of color, which have been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 crises.

Learn more about SBAN at the network’s website.

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