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Minority business enterprises -- Oregon -- Portland, Small business -- Planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Minority business enterprises -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies


The existence of thriving and numerous small businesses is instrumental to generating wealth within a community. They provide a diverse employment base for local residents, leading to greater economic stability. Small businesses create opportunities for keeping dollars circulating within the community, multiplying the benefits of those dollars. Creating such internal-multipliers within the economy of a community is a strategy for strengthening the community as a whole. This benefit extends to communities of color, immigrant communities, ethnic minority communities, and sexual minority communities.

Not all minority communities share in common a geographic location. They can be found residing in a relatively compact neighborhood just as they are often dispersed over a larger geographic area, such as a region. However a minority community is distributed, clusters of businesses serving a particular community provide value. In addition to generating wealth, business clusters facilitate the creation of place, for a community to meet. These places become important to the sense of identity and pride for the communities they serve.

The goal of this project is to facilitate the strengthening of small businesses 3:nd business clusters that serve minority communities. Small businesses are defined as businesses with less than 50 employees. Small businesses serving minority communities include businesses that provide goods and services that mayor may not be unique to a minority community. These businesses may be owned by and employ members of a minority community. They may provide "third places" where people can gather and relax, or they may support community events. These small businesses may cluster to share a clientele base or provide goods and services to other businesses in the cluster. These relationships create inter-dependencies among the businesses in the cluster and the communities they serve.

Understanding and attending to the inter-dependencies of small business clusters is one strategy for maintaining the viability of the businesses comprising the cluster. With greater understanding of the local dynamics of these clusters, planning and public investment decisions can be made to effectively strengthen small businesses and the minority communities they serve. In Portland, Oregon, the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area (ORA) and the planning process in the West End offer opportunities for such business- and community-strengthening efforts.

Our team performed case studies in the Interstate corridor URA and downtown's West End to identify small businesses serving minority communities, the presence of business clusters and their dynamics. These specific areas of interest include N. Killingsworth Avenue, between Interstate-5 and Cleveland, in the Interstate Corridor URA and the Burnside Triangle in the West End. Within each case study area, we inventoried businesses using Regional Land Information System (RLIS) and City of Portland Bureau of Licenses data. We then conducted interviews with a sample of these businesses to gain a greater understanding of business characteristics as well as to identify business clusters and their mutually supporting dynamics. The interviews included questions to business owners about what would help strengthen their business as well as questions to customers about their patronage habits. We then synthesized findings from these interviews with those from a review of economic development literature to develop strategies and recommendations for strengthe:o.i.rrg small businesses and the communities they serve.

We further intend this project to serve as a model for identifying small business clusters serving minority communities and determining how planning efforts can strengthen those businesses and the communities they serve. Our project will aid both our clients, including the economic development efforts of the Portland Development Commission (PDC) in the Interstate Corridor URA and City of Portland Commissioner Jim Francesconi's interest in and advocacy for small and minority businesses.


Client: Pordand Development Commission, and our contact Elissa Gertler The Office of Portland Commissioner Francesconi, and our contact Cristina Germain


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