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Small Business and the City

Small Business and the City: The Transformative Potential of Small Scale Entrepreneurship

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Small Business and the City
    Book Description:

    InSmall Business and the City, Rafael Gomez, Andre Isakov, and Matt Semansky highlight the power of small-scale entrepreneurship to transform local neighbourhoods and the cities they inhabit. Studying the factors which enable small businesses to survive and thrive, they highlight the success of a Canadian concept which has spread worldwide: the Business Improvement Area (BIA). BIAs allow small-scale entrepreneurs to pool their resources with like-minded businesses, becoming sources of urban rejuvenation, magnets for human talent, and incubators for local innovation in cities around the globe.

    Small Business and the Cityalso analyses the policies necessary to support this urban vitality, describing how cities can encourage and support locally owned independent businesses. An inspiring account of the dynamism of urban life,Small Business and the Cityintroduces a new "main street agenda" for the twenty-first century city.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9650-1
    Subjects: Business, Sociology, Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael Thompson

    Despite the fact that Canadian politicians routinely sing the praises of small and medium-sized enterprises, too often the focus of economic development efforts is on attracting – at times with large tax breaks and subsidies – the “one” firm, big sports franchise, or retailer that can transform a city’s economic fortunes with jobs and growth. While nobody would deny the value of inward investment, there is always the danger of ignoring the true driver of growth: our base of small businesses. As urban economist Ed Glaeser notes, places with greater numbers of small, independent firms and abundant new start-ups experience...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. 1 Introduction: Small Business and City Life
    (pp. 3-32)

    How do small, independent, locally operated businesses survive?

    This book is a fairly involved answer to this seemingly simple question. In addressing this question it focuses on the emergence of business improvement areas (BIAs) and their relation to the quality of city life. It also centres on our desire to understand the source(s) of entrepreneurial success and the continued persistence of small business in what has increasingly become a hyper-globalized and corporatized world. Along the way it tries to figure out why such a simple question needs to be asked in the first place. The small-scale entrepreneur has clearly outlived...

  6. Part I: The View from Main Street

    • 2 The BIA Movement: Setting the Stage for Main Street Revitalization
      (pp. 35-54)

      On 25 February 1966, despite a typically cold Canadian afternoon, Torontonians were in a celebratory mood. The city’s public transit authority had just extended the subway system eastward to Woodbine Avenue and westward to Keele Street. Only two years earlier almost to the day, on 26 February 1964, Canada’s first enclosed shopping mall (Yorkdale) had opened its doors, to considerable fanfare.

      These two events – a subway line extension and the opening of Canada’s first climate-controlled shopping mall – inadvertently set in motion forces that would eventually create the world’s first Business Improvement Area (BIA).

      Prior to these modernizations most...

    • 3 The View from Main Street Halifax: The Challenge of Being the Big Fish in a Small Pond
      (pp. 55-87)

      In our introduction we outlined how a combination of curiosity, intuition, and observation led us to explore the topic of small business and its role in urban society. We laid out in general terms our argument that small business is a critical driver of cities’ economic fortunes, as well as a formative influence on the social and psychological identity residents and visitors ascribe to a community. The preceding chapter described the origins and explained the rationale behind Business Improvement Associations, which are designed to give individual small-enterprise operators a collective voice with which to articulate their needs. It is now...

    • 4 The View from Main Street Vancouver: A City Region with an Emerging Sense of Place
      (pp. 88-110)

      On a warm day in late March, just as the sun begins to heat the sand on the shores of Harrison Lake after a long and gloomy “wet coast” winter, about 150 local government officials, politicians, bureaucrats, academics, and other progressives gather at the annual Progressive Governance Forum in Harrison Hot Springs (see exhibit 4.1) organized by the Centre for Civic Governance. The list of attendees is impressive and includes mayors and councillors from the largest municipalities in British Columbia and leading intellectuals in the field of community “place-making” and sustainability.

      In attendance are speakers such as Michael Shuman, director...

    • 5 The View from Main Street Toronto: A Case of the Bottom-Up, Top-Down Conundrum
      (pp. 111-150)

      Toronto, as we have seen from our introduction, was the birthplace of the first-ever modern Business Improvement Area. It is somewhat fitting, then, to end our city-based evaluation of local economic development and small business activity with a closer look at the place in which the BIA movement was born. On the surface at least, the portrait that emerges is one of unbridled success. Toronto is home to the world’s largest concentration of BIAs, and the pace of that growth, for the moment at least, appears unabated. A number of major BIA-led revitalization projects, such as those on Bloor Street...

  7. Part II: Unlocking the Potential of Small-Scale Enterprise

    • 6 The “Art and Science” of Small Business Survival: Lessons in BIA Practice
      (pp. 153-180)

      As seen in Part I ofSmall Business and the City, Canadian BIAs are struggling to represent their members’ interests while at the same time meeting the challenges of twenty-first-century living. They are also highly diverse, covering the full gamut of socio-economic and geographic diversity. In Toronto, for example, they range from the Fifth Avenue-style affluence of Yorkville to the bohemianism of Queen Street West, to the emerging suburban BIAs of Scarborough and North York. In the Vancouver region they range from a single downtown business district not too dissimilar from the downtown BIA found in Halifax to the spa...

    • 7 Of People, Profits, and Place: Lessons in Local Economic Development
      (pp. 181-205)

      In early 2011, Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighbourhood witnessed the closure of a beloved landmark, a forty-seven-year-old Latin grocery store, ushering in the arrival of a Whole Foods Market.¹ Immediately, a large backlash against Whole Foods erupted from within the local community, a unique mix of Latino immigrants, African Americans, university students, and young white professionals.² The most public organization formed to stop Whole Foods from establishing itself in Jamaica Plain was an all-volunteer organization known as “Whose Foods/Whose Community?: The Coalition Against Gentrification.”³ Among the organization’s criticisms of Whole Foods were its high prices, out of the reach of poorer...

    • 8 Small Business and the Main Street Agenda: Lessons in Public Policy
      (pp. 206-226)

      Accustomed as we are to believing that the North American economy is dominated by large enterprises (whether public or private), we may take a sceptical view of one of the basic premises of this book – that the current and future success of contemporary Canadian (and for that matter Western) society depends on numerous small, locally based, and independently owned enterprises operating in highly urbanized environments. This premise, we acknowledge, requires some explaining.

      The reason for placing such an emphasis on small enterprise and the city is actually quite simple. It is based on four observations about what small businesses...

    • 9 Recommendations for Making Small-Scale Enterprise a Transformative Force
      (pp. 227-233)

      Throughout this book we have advanced recommendations and offered policy advice aimed at enabling small-scale enterprise to achieve its potential. We have also tried to raise awareness of the power that small economic actors can exert when they begin to act in concert, both internally (through the BIA movement) and externally (with governments, communities, and yes, even large businesses). Some of our recommendations have been directed at governments, while others, as seen in chapter 6, are focused on BIA best practices. Along the way we offered findings from observations in the field, theory, empirical data, and academic research to support...

  8. 10 Conclusion: Cities, Small Business, and Distributed Decision Making
    (pp. 234-239)

    How often do we, as consumers, patronize a store, sometimes for years, where the staff have never bothered to learn our names or even acknowledge us as repeat customers? I venture to say that we all feel that way more often than not. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In the preceding chapters, we have seen plenty of examples of small business that rejected the pressure to become big and chose instead to become great.¹

    In a book published almost a decade ago,Small Giants, Bo Burlingham recounts the story of restaurateur Danny Meyer, who owns several restaurants...

  9. Afterword: Or … Why Staying Small, Local, and Independent Matters to City Life
    (pp. 240-248)

    At the beginning of this book we asked, “How do small, independent, locally operated businesses survive?” We hope we have provided some answers to that question while also addressing other important issues in the life of cities and the small businesses that increasingly are becoming champions in preserving locally resilient and diversified economies.

    It seems appropriate to endSmall Business and the Citywith one more story about how locally based enterprises manage to hang on, stubbornly in many cases, in our urban centres. These final thoughts will be filtered through the lens of personal memory and commentary by an...

  10. About the Authors
    (pp. 249-250)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 251-266)
  12. References
    (pp. 267-282)
  13. Index
    (pp. 283-290)