Back in August of 2019, when I laid out my strategic vision for the city, I talked about earmarking 50% of the city's economic incentive fund for current businesses, many of which are owned by people of color.
Not only is this the right thing to do, according to Strong Towns, investing in a city’s current businesses is oftentimes the best bang for your back.
That's because, in many instances, our current business owners only need a few thousand dollars for key updates – e.g., better and more appealing signage, façade improvements, or updated electricity. These small investments go a long way because they are small dollar amounts (read: low risk) invested in businesses that have proven they can sustain themselves as a part of our community.
Investing in our diverse business owners not only helps prevent displacement of these businesses by gentrification, but it helps keep a diversified business core. And it is a diverse customer base – people of all ages and cultures who eat and drink different things at different times – that can help sustain an equally diverse economy.
Since that time, I am proud of the fact that we have been able to maintain this commitment to invest in our own. We have invested in existing businesses - from Sew Creative to Colors by Tangie - as well as new businesses like Pennyroyal Station, Era Wine Bar, and Dodo's Kitchen. The best part? Sew Creative, Colors by Tangie, and Era Wine Bar are all owned by people of color, and even all three of the "new" businesses have some portion of their ownership group that actually lives in Mount Rainier. This is how we believe in our community - by investing in it.