Economic development can often be overlooked in the pursuit of sustainable urban planning, however, the three E’s of sustainability consist of Ecology, Equality and Economy. In promoting economic sustainability, Oakland’s Business Assistance Center (BAC) provides resources for economic ventures, of which, Oakland Grown, a program of the Sustainable Business Alliance, is a prime example of organized effort towards strengthening the local business presence. Such advocacy of independent and locally-owned businesses work to increase the local multiplier effect of keeping spent dollars circulating within the community.
Funding through the city is also available for Tenant Improvement, an Environmental Site Assessment Loan Program and Enterprise Zone program, which, for example, offer hiring and equipment-tax savings. The Oakland Business Development Corp. (OBDC) also offers small business loans under $250,000 for viable ventures that may not qualify for traditional loans. The city has also recently become trustee for the Kiva Zip program, to manage micro-lending services of crowdsourced loans, starting at $5,000 and 0% interest; increasing in loan amounts and number of borrowers as the program matures.
Brown Sugar Kitchen is an OBCD loan recipient that serves soul food in West Oakland and has been featured in “O” magazine and PBS’s Great American Chef Tour.
The city also provides market conditions for eight Key Industries of Oakland, including Arts and Digital Media, Retail, and Green Business. The East Bay Green Corridor is a cooperative effort to attract green industries and jobs, as well as enabling workforce training in the green economy through the Oakland Green Jobs Corps.
At a more grassroots level of workforce building, hackerspaces are increasing in presence within Oakland, incubating ideas and innovations of local movers and makers. Ace Monster Toys is such a space, offering twenty-four hour access for members to a warehouse for networking and resources such as industrial equipment like sewing machines, a 3-D printer, CNC router, engraver, bench-top mill, laser cutter, computer workstations, electronic parts, materials, and training to use it all. It was also the birth grounds of Hacker Scouts, who offer technology workshops for kids.
From left to right at Ace Monster Toys, Secretary Atom Bomb holds a laser cut wood panel next to one of the original Founders and Board of Directors member, Al Billings, in front of a work in progress on a laser cutting and engraving machine.
A finished head sculpture sits on the Ace Monster Toy’s 3-D Makerbot printer with another work of layers in progress.
Overall, such independent growth in Oakland enables future development of an economy that is locally strong and sustainable. In your community, what local businesses and services do you recognize as strengthening the economy of your city?
Credits: Images by Gina Kiani. Data linked to sources.