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Mayors Conference

The 2018 Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship

In 2018, more than 142 city officials, including 102 mayors, attended the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, Missouri.

What is the Mayors Conference?

Please note that the following content is specific to the 2018 Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship. Updates for the 2020 convening can be found here.

In 2018, more than 142 city officials, including 102 mayors, attended the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, Missouri. The themes of the conference included: mayors understanding their own data and economic metrics, discovering innovative policies that improve economic outcomes, and implementing those policies within their unique cities.

Mayors Conference Wall
The Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship 2018 knowledge wall.
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Mayors and city officials collaborate in small groups at the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, Missouri.
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Two attendees from the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship in Kansas City, Missouri, collaborate.
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The opening remarks from the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship captured in a visual asset.

Featuring Firestarter Julia Lane

The key to using metrics is uncovering the story they tell. This is where mayors excel. Mayors are master storytellers who can provide expert insight and relate the significance of certain trends and statistics to their community members.

“How do we talk about economic development outside of jobs?”

“How can we talk about human development, social cohesion, connections, and equity in economic terms?”

Dr. Julia Lane, an economist and professor from the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, helped attendees think through these questions. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for every city and community.

Ultimately, the metrics that mayors choose to help understand the ecosystem – and to measure entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth – are as important as success itself. Dr. Lane stressed that mayors have access to and the advantage of powerful datasets that contain rich information about their local communities.

If your city, if your community, only knew what it knows, it could do its job better.

Julia Lane, economist, professor, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

In our work, it’s important to know the economic indicators that matter at a local level. For years, the dominant measure of success has been job creation. Jobs give us dignity, purpose, and the ability to provide for our families. Jobs also mean financial independency. With the future of work upon us, a career spent working for one employer is a relic of the past.

Further, the research tells us that most new jobs come from young, high-growth companies. Young companies, founded by entrepreneurs, support local economies – and to have entrepreneurship, a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem must exist.

During the conference, researchers from around the globe discussed cutting-edge methods for measuring local ecosystems. Creating jobs is important, but a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem must come first. Because of this, important metrics that precede jobs created were explored, such as how to measure relationships and the ecosystem through the lens of diversity and equity.

Further, mayors were asked how best to communicate these metrics as effectively as job creation has been communicated. Jobs are the final goal, but there is a long journey before homegrown entrepreneurs can produce them.

A snapshot of Kansas City, Missouri. mySidewalk

mySidewalk worked with the Mayors Conference to provide dashboards for many cities across the country. These dashboards can be used to see how diverse the entrepreneurs in your community are, how effective the infrastructure is, and the general economic health of the area.

The information in this dashboard offer a useful starting point and can serve as a catalyst for a longer collaboration between mayors, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem builders to identify and develop inclusive and representative metrics for success and can provide valuable insights into your community.

Watch: “Mayors Conference 2018: Jonathan Ortmans” | 23:09

How do mayors connect the dots about what it means to create new policies, metrics, and ways to describe, message, and legislate economic growth?

Mayors listened to policy innovations – Beyond Jobs, NetWork Kansas, and UBI Stockton – to hear ideas for alternative policies, metrics, and messaging on new ways to present economic indicators in the era of entrepreneurship.

Beyond Jobs
Beyond Jobs, Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship 2018

Beyond Jobs

Beyond Jobs, founded by Wingham Rowan, aims to create an equitable labor market for “gig workers” or “irregular workers.”

Rowan’s platform places the worker and the employer on equitable footing with equal information. The employers has more information about each individual worker, and the workers can share their talents across many potential employers.

An equitable platform for gig workers is important to entrepreneurship in several ways. Entrepreneurs need access to talent. Additionally, entrepreneurs need flexibility with employees and payroll. The Beyond Jobs platform would lower the cost of and the time spent accessing talent. Entrepreneurs are often mid-career professionals, and Beyond Jobs helps making the move from a full-time job to a startup easier and more flexible.

NetWork Kansas

How can communities without all the resources of more populated cities still promote economic independence through entrepreneurial starts and success?

Network Kansas
NetWork Kansas, Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship 2018

Mayors from smaller towns and rural communities must make the most of a smaller pool of resources and build coalitions, both within their communities and within their regions. NetWork Kansas, for example, provides the opportunity for Kansas’s mayors to collaborate with each other and other members of state government.

NetWork Kansas aims to promote an entrepreneurial environment by providing a central portal of resources – such as expertise, education, capital, and a network of relationships with business development organizations and educational institutions – for entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the state of Kansas. The result is a seamless system that accelerates economic and community development.

Established by the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 (KEGA) as the Kansas Center for Entrepreneurship, NetWork Kansas became operational at the beginning of the 2006 fiscal year. Now, the NetWork Kansas portal is available statewide and enables entrepreneurs and small business owners to connect with more than 500 NetWork Kansas partners. KEGA provided a tax credit that funds debt instruments for entrepreneurs, but the vast majority of the loans are leveraged from local lenders. NetWork Kansas’s relatively small contribution catalyzes other capital and provides sufficient incentive for busy entrepreneurs to participate.

Mayors from larger cities discussed if they had a revenue stream that could replace the state tax credit that funds NetWork Kansas. While this would make regional collaboration more difficult, it would make the program more agile.

Universal Basic Income
UBI Stockton, SEED, Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship 2018

Universal Basic Income (UBI) Stockton – SEED

The coming disruption from automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and the gig economy might seem like an unprecedented sea change, but this is not new. People have always suffered job insecurity at the hands of innovation. Further, entrepreneurs are constantly changing the status quo and rendering policies and plans obsolete as soon as they are finalized.

What is new are globally interconnected economies, financial returns to capital that outpace financial returns to labor, and jobs that look more like short-term projects instead of long-term employment.

Will this wave of innovation exacerbate income inequalities or help address it?

A guaranteed income, also known as a Universal Basic Income (UBI), is a system of widely distributed, regular, unconditional cash stipends. Variations of guaranteed income have surfaced throughout history:

  • Thomas Paine proposed the idea in “Agrarian Justice.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for a guaranteed income.
  • Early 20th-century economists defined the idea as a “negative income tax.”
  • Richard Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan joined forces to advocate for an income floor that almost made it through Congress in the 1970s.

We also have a modern-day version of a guaranteed income: The state of Alaska distributes an annual dividend to every Alaskan.

In California, there’s Stockton – a city with a challenging past and a promising future. Stockton is in many ways a microcosm of the United States. Major shifts in the economy, such as persistent wage stagnation and rising inequality, have made it increasingly difficult for hardworking people to make ends meet. SEED is the nation’s first-ever city-led guaranteed income demonstration. The program is testing the idea of a guaranteed income by giving 100 residents of Stockton $500 per month for approximately 18 months. The residents who were chosen to participate began receiving their stipend in early 2019.

What the discussion of the policy did do was raise the idea of how mayors and city governments can provide some degree of a safety net for those willing to risk everything.

Entrepreneurs die a death of a thousand cuts.

Victor Hwang, vice president, Entrepreneurship, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Some mayors suggested that a “rainy day fund” could be created to help entrepreneurs through temporary cash shortfalls. For the local coffee shop, for example, missing payroll might be a matter of a few hundred dollars. Providing local entrepreneurs access to small amounts of cheap capital to cover month-to-month expenses could prevent businesses from closing simply for failure of meeting a relatively small expense. It’s the small things that can be most impactful.

The Lean Policy Canvas Approach

After thinking about measuring outcomes differently and designing policies to move toward those outcomes, mayors had the time and space to plan out the implementation of the policies.

Using a modified version of the Lean Business Canvas called the “Lean Policy Canvas,” the mayors developed implementation plans to foster entrepreneurship and remove barriers for entrepreneurs in their communities. This approach also helped mayors approach their policy changes in more entrepreneurial ways.

The structure of the exercise can be replicated by a policymaker at any level by asking:

  • What is the metric I think is important?
  • Will this policy move that metric?
  • How do I implement this policy in my community?

Metrics that are important to entrepreneurs may not be obvious at first glance, and mayors must therefore be creative and look beyond the surface connections.

Ecosystem Building is Economic Development

Watch: “Mayors Conference 2018: Maria Meyers and Mayor Sly James” | 29:12

This conversation between two exemplary entrepreneurship champions, Maria Meyers of KC SourceLink and Mayor Sly James of Kansas City Missouri, focused on the interaction between entrepreneurship and economic development. While capital and investment is often the center of the discussion, Meyers and Mayor James both emphasized human capital as the true resource for economic growth. The economy of the future will be fueled by talent, which is always the second most vocalized need of entrepreneurs. Home grown talent and strong networks between resources will be the continued focus for both of these nationally recognized ecosystem builders. They called the mayors in the audience to focus on the same issues with ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs.