The Process is the Point

Can we think past job creation to building a culture of entrepreneurship?

The person: Earlier this year, Kate Noble, an economic development specialist with the City of Santa Fe and part of the support network behind MIX Santa Fe (see page 30), created a business development plan for Santa Fe. The concept behind the plan is a three-pronged approach that Noble says cities should take in order to encourage economic development: maintaining and investing in quality of life, providing good service for businesses, and promulgating an economic development program aimed at “diversifying the economy and creating high-wage jobs.” Sound like a bunch of jargon? Consider the possibility of a pilot project that not only applies that concept, but tests it at the same time.

The plan: “Ignite the entrepreneurial ecosystem” by creating a pilot program to assist selected “entrepreneurial fellows.”

How it works: Rather than targeting certain industries, Noble proposes a broader goal: fostering entrepreneurship. “I think about it more as a general entrepreneurial culture,” she says. “One size doesn’t fit all, so if we can find ways for entrepreneurism to be the thing, even the industry—that we cultivate, that we celebrate—we’re really good at that.”

Creating a culture of entrepreneurialism is, in fact, what government should do, Noble says.

"The outcome you want is the job creation, but I think the history of where governments have most effectively played in economic development is in creating the environment," Noble explains.

Noble's business development plan describes a pilot program that would competitively select six to 12 "entrepreneurial fellows." The fellows would "commit to a three- to six-month term of intensive work to grow their business," according to the plan and, in turn, would receive free workspace, "free space to display their progress" and a stipend from the city.

The program, Noble says, could be "a rough-and-tumble way to take elements from these [economic development] programs around the country that are successful and figure out what pieces fit here."

It's also an opportunity to take advantage (yes, advantage) of the recession's tendency to prompt what Noble describes as "a burst of entrepreneurial activity."

"There's actually a lot popping there," she says—and a program that recognizes and unites entrepreneurs may help Santa Feans realize that fact.

As yet nothing’s set in stone, but as Noble puts it, “The process is the point.”

Bottom line: By offering targeted support to motivated entrepreneurs, Santa Fe may be able to create not just jobs, but a larger, job-creating atmosphere. “Hopefully, we can create that feeling of possibility…the culture of entrepreneurialism,” Noble says. “The word ‘ecosystem’ is overused, but it’s a really good one: to try to enliven that ecosystem.”

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