We can tell if our economy is doing well when all of our people are doing well. A good local economy is one that offers all of us what we need to thrive. Good local governance focuses on building a strong foundation for our economy by prioritizing getting living wage jobs and supporting local business owners and workers. It is critical that local governments do what they can to prioritize building our economy from the ground up instead of investing in trickle-down economics. This will require focusing economic development efforts on the people our economy leaves out the most: low-income, poor and working class people, and Black and Brown people.
A note on living wage: A study by the University of Washington commissioned by the United Way found that in 2020 to cover the average cost of housing, childcare, food, transportation, healthcare, and basic necessities without assistance, one adult with a preschooler would need $44,081 per year. That same study found that a household with one adult, one preschooler and one school aged child would need $53,715. Another study at MIT found that a living wage was $60,881 for a single parent with one child and $76,731 for a single parent with two kids. We are still fighting to even get $15 per hour ($31,200). No local government has the resources to ensure every resident a living wage, but we can fight for it at the local, state and national levels.
WHAT OUR NEIGHBORS TOLD US
One Black Business owner told us: We hear jobs a lot.They’re bringing this many JOBS! But who are they hiring? There should be additional incentives to corporations that do hire ex-felons. We should be really intentional about showing them some type of love. Otherwise, I expect them to be in the streets getting money. And that’s why trade programs are extremely important. There aren’t too many programs out there where there’s a smooth transition from being an entrepreneur in the streets to being an entrepreneur in a legal way.
When we asked, “What things would be helpful to you as a small business man?” he responded: I think access to capital, resources, in the sense of education – in the form of education and connections- and what I mean by that is all small businesses- especially the ones in the Black and brown community should really get support in learning how to organize and function- in learning how to document things in a way that funders are willing to support. Funders are looking for one type of thing, so we should be taught that- instead of trying to get funding blind & not even knowing what they’re looking for. What are the funding trends? What are making the banks and the ones who give out grants say yes? That should be taught to small businesses. Cash moves. If we’re giving out capital- why not to small businesses? The same ones continue to get cash from our city and our county. You’ve got Marty Kotis that continues to get funding- or land. I don’t care if it’s a grant or land. Grants and forgivable loans along with incentives.”
Another neighbor said: “People need to make at least between $15-$20, I hate to say $20 an hour because it sounds like so much but it’s really not. I’m in that area now, and I’m just to a point where I can save something out of that check. But that’s only because of where my rent is, but if my rent gets any higher. Really more than that- you need to make $25-30. $500 more per month in my house would make a world of difference. That is so heartbreaking to know that only $500 a month is between me coming home where I hate it, and where I’m smiling every day. Living somewhere safe.”
PUT PEOPLE FIRST
- When our local governments give money away to corporations and developers, that money should make sure people are being put first. Our elected leaders should make sure corporations commit to respecting the environment, support their employees with jobs that pay at least $22/hr and provide benefits, and hire Black, Brown, immigrant, and refugee workers in Guilford County.
- Everyone who works for the governments of the City of Greensboro, the City of High Point, and Guilford County should get paid a living wage.
- We support the City Workers Union (UE150), and their fight to ensure that all city workers are treated with dignity.
- Our local and state electeds must push the state legislature to get rid of “Right to Work” laws and misclassification laws, which allow companies to deny workers benefits.
- The elected officials who lead our city and county governments should help people – in particular, Black, Brown, immigrant and refugee business owners, young people, and local entrepreneurs – start and grow small businesses and worker-owned and cooperative businesses, and through the grants, forgivable loans, and technical assistance.
MAKE IT EASIER TO GET THE JOBS THAT ARE ALREADY HERE
- Our elected leaders in local governments must ensure that more Black and Brown business owners, subcontractors, and workers can benefit from city and county contracts, including by removing the barriers to qualify to contract with the city and county. Over 90% of our city and county contracts go to companies owned by white men, despite Guilford County being 51% Black, Native, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and Middle Eastern.
- Our elected leaders must shrink the racial and economic digital divide by expanding access to the internet which is central to today’s economy and educational systems through free broadband, publicly owned wifi spots, a hotspot loan program through the libraries, or other solutions. Our elected leaders in the state legislature should work to remove the state-level restrictions against municipal broadband.
A GREEN ECONOMY FOR GUILFORD COUNTY
- Our elected leaders must care for the planet and our economy by using local and state funds to create more green jobs.
- Our elected leaders must invest in public spaces such through building, improving, and maintaining sidewalks, parks, streetlights and crosswalks across Guilford County – specifically in low-income communities and Black, Brown, immigrant and refugee communities.