| Danielle Eaton
SPRINGFIELD – Small business within Springfield has evolved since the city’s inception, and now it is being recognized as one of the best places in the country to start a small business.
Springfield was listed 46th on Magazine Inc.'s list of “Surge Cities” across America, and was one of only three cities, not only in Massachusetts, but in New England to make the list. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno told Reminder Publishing, the city’s history in small business comes from “humble beginnings in fur trades,” “sweeping industrial development that was advanced harnessing the Connecticut River” and “internationally regarded skills with metal fabrication.”
However, Sarno said the city saw “significant business retrenchment due to the de-industrialization” of the economy in the 1960-1980s. Since then, Springfield has been working to bring small business back to the city, and while the city “has not fully recovered,” Sarno said the “small business sector has reinvented itself.”
That reinvention, Sarno said, has come with knowing that “Springfield is not, nor does it want to be, San Francisco, New York or Boston.” He said, “Springfield has its own sense of place and identity and we love it!”
He said, over the years, he has seen opportunities for small businesses in Springfield “directly linked to the city’s larger industry clusters,” such as food manufacturing, transport and warehousing, boutique credit intermediation businesses, legal services, clean manufacturing, merchant wholesalers, management consulting, graphic design and STEM workforce.
Sarno explained Springfield has been successful with small business due to what author of “Startup Cities” Peter Cohan refers to six factors of “Startup Common.” He said those factors consist of pillar companies, universities, human capital, investment capital, mentor networks and value.
He added that the city plans to continue to use the factors to grow and evolve small business within Springfield. “As a community, we need to continue to integrate and drive them in ways that enhance our entrepreneurial success, are accessible to all and are distinctive to our regional geography,” Sarno said.
Other ways the city plans to maintain and grow small business, he said, are by continuing to “utilize and attempt to improve upon the traditional federal, state and local resources available for small business development and expansion.”
However, Sarno said Springfield has a bigger mission than simply maintaining and growing the number of small businesses within the city. “Our larger work as a community is to ensure that we have as healthy an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Springfield as we possibly can have,” he said.
To do this, Sarno said “there needs to be further dialogue between the city and its institutional and corporate community to agree upon the tangible actions and commitments that can be made over time.” This, he noted will “make Springfield’s business environment more growth oriented and for us to better understand and communicate the direct benefits that endeavor has for every participating party.”
Another way to ensure a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem is for the city “to work with the emerging businesses that already exist to ensure that they are appropriately scaling up for new growth opportunities,” Sarno said. He added that as the businesses are supported and grow, they will become “role models for future startups” and “be able to train the new generations of startups how to do it faster, easier and better.”
Sarno said he hopes that the growth of small business within the city lets residents and emerging business owners “that Springfield is advancing a renewed business environment that is pro-business, pro job creation and pro diversity.” The city, he said, “is seriously focused on growing its small business community and nurturing those that start their businesses in Springfield to successfully mature and expand here.”
He added that while being named as a “Surge City” with cities such as Boston “is absolutely a good start,” one of his long term goals is for Springfield to be named as one of the top 25 cities for starting a small business.
“If we are deliberate in our focus on entrepreneurial and small business development, we will ultimately become the Western Massachusetts capitol for emerging businesses,” he said.