Student Fellowship

Streamlining Processes and Expanding Access to Opportunity 
for Small Businesses

Project Area:

Economic Recovery

City:

Montgomery, AL

Reporting to:

Special Assistant to the Mayor

The Challenge

The leadership of the city of Montgomery is looking to grow the local economy in a more equitable way and empower small business development. To enable this, the city would like to assess its existing permitting, licensing, and inspection processes to identify opportunities for streamlining and expanding access, particularly for minority- and women-owned businesses. The city fears that minority populations are disproportionately deterred by ambiguous and complex processes governing business ownership. Relatedly, the city would also like to improve processes and enforce requirements for minority contracts. Therefore, part of the effort to expand opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses will include helping evaluate the city's existing procurement practices, expand training and opportunities for minority- and women-owned firms to be competitive for city contracts, and ensure the city has a fair and equitable procurement process with measurable goals. Streamlining and expanding access to opportunity for small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned, is a mayoral priority that the city leadership believes will help Montgomery achieve its full potential and create a more inclusive, prosperous, and vibrant economy and community.

What You’ll Do

The fellow will be expected to:

  1. Work with the finance and revenue departments, procurement office, and public works, which houses inspections, to analyze current permitting, licensing, and inspections processes for starting small businesses in order to answer the question: Has the city identified, and is the city implementing best practices to support small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned businesses?
  2. Evaluate what is and is not working well for both starting and growing successful small businesses in Montgomery.
  3. Conduct stakeholder outreach with small business owners (current and prospective), as well as city vendors to understand and learn from their experience.
  4. Conduct a detailed case study overview of promising practices for supporting the expansion of minority- and women-owned small businesses in other similarly sized cities.
  5. Develop recommendations for improvement and implementation of processes both for starting a business and for procuring city contracts.
  6. Support ongoing cross-departmental work on this issue as part of the Bloomberg Harvard Innovation Track, which is helping cities engage residents in testing, adapting, and scaling creative ideas to address complex challenges.

What You’ll Bring

  • Thorough understanding of core functions and structures of municipal government
  • Knowledge of policies and programs to support small business growth
  • Humility and sensitivity to working with stakeholders of different backgrounds
  • Strong collaboration skills
  • Design thinking skills
  • Data collection and analysis skills
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