GAZETTES | By Harry Saltzgaver | February 7, 2019
As far as grants go, $50,000 is not especially big. But it is big enough to fuel phase two of the Everyone In economic inclusion effort, Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson said. Wells Fargo Bank made the grant through LA LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), a nonprofit dedicated to helping communities help themselves.
Richardson launched to program in 2017 and, with the help of the city’s Economic Development Department, conducted a series of conversations, listening sessions, and roundtables to come up with needs and approaches. A comprehensive data analysis led to an economic equity profile, which was released Tuesday.
Phase 1 culminated last May with an Everyone In Economic Equity Summit, also sponsored by Wells Fargo. Richardson said those efforts combine to create a roadmap forward.
“Long Beach has been changing dramatically,” Richardson said. “In the 1980s, people of color were 30 percent of the population. In the 2010 census, 72 percent were people of color. Long Beach is booming, but that sector doesn’t align economically… Everyone In is our first attempt at putting the population first.”
Those Phase 1 efforts have been distilled into four areas where action is needed, according to Richardson. All involve providing better access to support mechanisms for minority groups — resulting in equitable situations.
“Housing is one area that is key,” Richardson said. “Levels of home ownership are going down for all populations, but particularly for the lower income group. When I was coming up, I was able to purchase a home at 25. I don’t think that happens today… An example of action? To start, there is no HUD counseling center here. If we had one, we might be able to get people back in (the housing market).”
Helping small businesses do business with the city is the second area of work. There already is a policy to reach out to minority- and women-owned businesses when contracts are out for bid, but there still are many barriers, Richardson said. Most contracts are too big for smaller businesses to consider, and the process to be certified as a minority business is bureaucratic at best.
“We need to set goals to contract with these businesses, and we need to look at the scope of our contracts,” Richardson said. “We also need a common criteria, a simpler way, to become certified. As far as I’m concerned, if you say you are minority or women owned, you are unless it can be shown otherwise.”
Supporting business groups that advocate for small business and helping with transitions of business ownership are other potential action areas.
Financial resiliency is the third category. That means providing help, including financial help to business owners and residents. Richardson said coordinating small ($10,000 or less) KIVA loans would help startups and others. Convincing banks to locate in poorer areas of the city is another priority.
Finally, more needs to be done for minority youth and workforce development. Richardson said the recent shift or addition of vocational training in educational institutions is a start. Workforce development programs should better align with current available jobs, he said.
“And financial literacy is key,” Richardson said. “I want to see courses in financial literacy tied to youth getting their first job.”
Phase 2 will use the $50,000 from Wells Fargo to outline an agenda of policy and specific program recommendations with the help of data and priorities developed in Phase 1. There will be a push to create a new Community Development Corporation as a quasi-governmental help agency, and a Minority- and Women-owned Small Business Council.
A Community Conversation Series and focus groups will be used for more feedback and to get the word out to more of the community. The first meeting of an Implementation Committee has already occurred. For more information, go to insidedistrict9.com/policy/#everyone-in or call (562) 570-6137.