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