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Inclusive Innovation Amid the fast growth, multiple organizations are working to ensure that our city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is as demographically representative as possible  Christopher Gergen  •  @cgergen


families through comprehensive education and social service strategies. are entrepreneurial hubs like American Underground, Made in Durham is a relatively new effort to help more than 4,000 youth iNvictus Office Center, ReCity and Duke University’s new between the ages of 16 and 24 – who are not in school or work – with Innovation & Entrepreneurship access to job training and livable wage jobs. Bullpen, as well as a growing number of highTo help grow the number of local growth, high-impact enterprises. Adding to minority-owned businesses in East Durham, this growth is the 15-acre Durham Innovation a number of nonprofits have come together District already underway just west of including Community Partnerships Inc., the downtown with an expected 1 million square Helius Foundation, North Carolina Central feet of lab and office space for life science University’s Small Business and Technology companies as well as 300,000 square feet of Development Center and Durham Tech’s residential units. Small Business Center to provide technical This growth is, however, not without risks. assistance and support to small businesses in Just down Main Street is northeast central east Durham. This includes a micro-loan fund Durham – a majority minority community recently underwritten by Duke. that has a centrally located, under-developed In support of these endeavors, Durham is commercial corridor and an emerging now part of a nationwide, multi-city learning entrepreneurial community. The city invested collaborative with New Orleans, Cleveland and The author lives in Trinity Park with $4 million in street improvements in the Detroit focused on inclusive innovation called his wife and two children and is the Angier-Driver corridor, but without an Forward Cities – with a specific mandate to co-founder of Forward Cities, founding partner of HQ Community, a social intentional plan to stabilize home ownership; grow the number of locally owned minority innovation and entrepreneurship invest in education opportunities; accelerate enterprises. American Underground has also fellow at Duke University, and coand strengthen local minority ownership and put diversity and inclusion at the center of author of “Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary small business activity; and (critically) ensure their growth plan, and 48% of their member People Creating Extraordinary Lives.” community buy-in and participation, there is a companies are now minority/female led (a 30% significant risk of gentrification, displacement increase from last year). They’ve also partnered and local frustration as downtown grows. with Google for Entrepreneurs to help launch Durham (like the rest of North Carolina) has alarmingly low rates the first Google Exchange for Black Founders and a CODE2040 – to of social mobility and high rates of economic insecurity. According to foster a pipeline of next-generation black and Latino tech talent. a recent report from Durham-based economic development nonprofit Durham’s history of African-American-led commerce – including MDC, if you are born in the bottom economic quintile in Durham there Black Wall Street and flourishing neighborhoods of color like Hayti is a 40% chance you will stay there and only a 5% chance of getting into (until it was decimated by “urban renewal” in the 1950s) – should help the top quintile. inspire a dynamic sense of possibility for our city in which prosperity Fortunately, there are efforts underway to provide greater economic is shared, our innovation economy is truly inclusive and we become a opportunity for all our citizens. The East Durham Children’s Initiative is model for other cities in the South and the nation. It is up to all of us to a collective impact approach dedicated to breaking cycles of poverty for help make this vision a reality. ELPING FUEL DURHAM’S BOOMING INNOVATION ECONOMY




April 2017

Durham Magazine April 2017  
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