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Toolkit Aims to Help Small Businesses Stay in Place

By Maggie Haslam

The University of Maryland’s Small Business Anti-Displacement Network (SBAN) has compiled an interactive toolkit of more than 20 implementable strategies for small business leaders to protect vulnerable businesses, especially those owned by immigrants and people of color, from displacement, closure and the ongoing stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Gentrification in many cities has not let up during the pandemic. The pandemic only made the pressures more intense. There are a lot of small businesses that are feeling the strain right now, and not enough knowledge about the policies and practices that can help them stay in place,” said Associate Professor Willow Lung-Amam, SBAN’s director.

The toolkit, amassed through extensive research on commercial gentrification and small business displacement, features proven policies and practices from across the country. Strategies address the unique challenges facing small businesses, including preservation and property improvement, hiring practices, tenant protections, supporting entrepreneurship and accessing tax credits.

“Most of these businesses and organizations work in silos,” said SBAN Project Manager Kiara Garland. “People are inundated with the work so they don’t have the ability to necessarily share what they’re doing. The toolkit can help those small business leaders access strategies to very specific challenges they might be facing and offers action items they can implement right now.”

The toolkit is a prelude to SBAN’s efforts to bring its members together for a virtual peer-learning groups later this year to build and exchange knowledge, resources, and capacity around promising anti-displacement strategies.

Launched this spring through a $3 million philanthropic investment, the Small Business Anti-Displacement Network is galvanizing over 100 small business leaders to evaluate and share successful measures, and to create tools and advocate for policies to prevent the displacement or closure of vulnerable businesses.

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