The ReGenesis poll generated a lot of input on the issue of economic wellbeing and vitality. Respondents raised a broad array of issues that related to the downtown area to the issue of incentives to the very significant theme of inequality that permeates so many comments,
There is a call to boost the viability of local businesses and the downtown area:
Reprioritize growth to support local businesses, sustainable practices and kinder, fairer distribution of resources. Build less, focus on recycling, reusing, and developing local jobs that involve these survival issues.
I will focus my thoughts to downtown since I live close to downtown and spend time there. I'd like to see DGI and the City have a more inclusive vision for downtown, both in terms of populations served and businesses encouraged to move in. Part of this will require dealing with landlords who refuse to upgrade buildings for occupancy, thus leaving too many storefronts empty. I'd like to see the City also create financial incentives to allow more retail businesses to move in, particularly minority-owned (ex: rent control, etc). Finally, the rhetoric around "downtown development" favors white, upper income lifestyles, and often involves class-based rhetoric when it comes to how downtown is experienced. Real economic development (a sustainable development model) will have entry points for multiple populations and income levels.
There is a sense that economic incentives are misaligned with community aspirations:
Improve balance between large corporate tax base demands and small retail service providers. For example: the perception is that high dollar companies and developers get the velvet glove treatment and receive most of the incentives without having to shoulder much of the risk. While we are at it, it would be a good idea to look at the way small businesses are set up legally. Should small businesses be allowed to be established without first incorporating as an LLC? No small business should risk their personal assets when virtually no large corporations do. Seeing Mom and Pop businesses go out of business during the Covid pandemic because they have had to forfeit their personal wealth is tragic. Chapter 11 bankruptcy should be an option for everyone. Also, please hold the line between residential areas and business/industrial development. We need more buffers between these areas especially in minority communities. Thanks!
The city of Greensboro has done an excellent marketing job of projecting a thriving city built for developers. It doesn't actually support the people living and working in the city. Too many deals have been made with developers to overbuild downtown blocks with pricey accommodations while there isn't an adequate shelter for homeless citizens.
There is a sense that opportunity is far from equal for all:
I would like to see equal parts creativity and equity as we move forward. I feel that, as a small city that is growing quickly, there are a limited number of people making great gains, and a majority who are locked out, and will be left behind. I have seen this over my life in other areas, watching small and medium sized cities grow much larger over time. We have to make a conscious effort to focus on equity to be successful - we cannot just assume we are good people, so the outcomes will be equitable.
Greensboro has a long history of segregation and inequity, which is still very prevalent today. This is evident in the fact that East Greensboro and Northwest Greensboro are worlds apart concerning economic investment. There are certain segments of our population that contribute to the tax basis of the city but rarely receive any of the benefits of their tax dollars. We are a city divided by race, color and class. Those in power seem to have blinders regarding this fact and seem to care nothing about resolving the inequities.
The income inequality our city experiences cannot be overcome merely by attracting job-providing companies to locate here. Racial injustices and educational deficiencies prevent many poor residents from qualifying for meaningful work. The city can help with those problems prior to and even without the involvement of new major employers. Our state government must be persuaded to allocate increased funds for education, expand Medicaid, and themselves advocate for inclusion by example.
Whiteness has dictated how this city functions since inception. It's refusal to be inclusive and actually supportive of diversity will be it's death. The city isn't white. The systems are.
Access to talent is a factor, especially given the number of colleges and universities located here:
I am a business owner who employs multiple people. I have one worker from Greensboro, but the rest are remote as it is hard to recruit good talent in this city. All the young college grads who are smart move elsewhere.
Retain graduates from colleges in Greensboro to stay here and work for / start businesses. The majority of job growth comes from small businesses. Change city council from a perpetual state of " discus discuss discuss" to "do do do". I'm from Greensboro, went to NC State, toured this nation & the world and have not seen a city that is so slow to act upon their vision as my hometown & current town. We've got the best mountain bike & hiking trail system for a town our size in this region, yet we've been working on a city greenway for almost a decade. Greensboro has good ideas... act upon them. Stop trying to be the next "Innovation Quarter" like Winston. Stop trying to be Raleigh or Charlotte. Greensboro has good roots... build upon them. Call me if y'all want to talk…
Although I prefer that we do not try to be a Charlotte or Raleigh, Greensboro really does need to do more to grow and attract home offices and larger companies. It seems like all of our home grown companies have been bought out and our city now only has branches of companies with very few executive level jobs. To keep the younger generations here, we need to do much better in offering them challenging, higher level, better paying jobs.
There is a sense that Greensboro, despite the challenges, has much potential for a good place to be, with good leadership and strategic action:
I love Greensboro, especially my home of four years in downtown Greensboro, and we have work to do, but it truly is the best city to call home.
Greensboro is a fantastic city but seeing more businesses leaving and restaurants closing is discouraging. Greensboro has the potential to be one of the best cities if we can bring more businesses in.
I want it to grow in a healthy way. I want it to be more equal and more just for all. I want to see downtown flourish. And I desperately want more job opportunities so we can stay for the long run. Otherwise, I could see my family and I having to leave.
For this current season to unleash a wave of creativity and innovation in providing economic mobility for disadvantaged populations, through shifting power structures and disrupting access to opportunity. Greensboro has all the essential ingredients for this to happen, but we must have the collective will to realize beloved community.