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Business Journal
Attracting Entrepreneurs to Your City
Business Journal

Attracting Entrepreneurs to Your City

If you're a city leader, you want to spur job creation -- and that includes making your city attractive to the people who actually create jobs. Those people are your local entrepreneurs.

Local academia provides a foundation and environment for culture, learning, debate, and advancement.

Many leaders know that entrepreneurs embody a special kind of worker -- they are risk takers who help create jobs for others. What leaders may not know is that when it comes to well-being, entrepreneurs are substantively different from other workers. They embrace a lifestyle of healthy choices, physical wellness, trustworthy workplaces, and intellectual curiosity that distinguishes them from their counterparts. These differences outline a playbook for community leaders to follow if bringing this special class of worker to your city is part of your agenda.

It's possible that being an entrepreneur opens up more opportunity to pursue lifestyle choices that yield superior well-being outcomes. What's also true -- and at least as likely -- is that creating a well-being culture in your community will lay a foundation that's enticing to more people who look, feel, think, and behave like entrepreneurs. This in turn increases the chance that more people will seek a career in business formation and job creation in your community.

In other words, if your community builds a more physically fit and intellectually stimulating culture that also makes the smart choices the easy choices, you will increase the pool of citizens who are intellectually, physically, and psychologically willing and prepared to pursue entrepreneurship. There are tangible actions that you can take -- some obvious, some not so obvious -- to improve your chances of success at meeting this goal.

Here are six priorities for cities that want to enhance a culture of entrepreneurship.

  1. Make sure every neighborhood has safe places to exercise. Nationally, about 8% of American adults do not have a safe place to exercise. This percentage nearly doubles to 15% in lower-income areas. Not having somewhere safe to exercise greatly reduces the likelihood that a person will exercise on a given day, which can reduce the likelihood of entrepreneurship. Communities can promote an entrepreneurial climate in low-income neighborhoods by investing in gyms, basketball courts, and outdoor fields -- but they will reap the best results if residents feel safe when they use these facilities. Cities can also encourage existing businesses to subsidize fitness club membership fees for their employees in exchange for a minimum number of visits to the gym each month.
  2. Enhance access to affordable fruits and vegetables. The cost of produce relative to junk food is only part of the barrier to obtaining fresh fruits and vegetables. People also need easy and safe access to produce. Establishing a small but visible security presence at farmers markets in high-risk, low-income neighborhoods has high potential return for minimal investment. People who live in these neighborhoods want fresh produce as much as those in low-risk, high-income neighborhoods, but they may be reluctant to make the trek to the market because they have safety concerns. Vendors may also be reluctant to participate due to safety concerns. Removing this barrier can yield substantial dividends in the produce consumption of any community. Existing businesses also could set an example for future entrepreneurs to emulate by offering free fruit to employees, and cities could subsidize this practice among partnering organizations. Creating a community of businesses that share this common purpose can encourage others to start their businesses in the same environment of health and well-being.
  3. Encourage "business swap" partnering programs. For example, employees who work at restaurants that offer low-calorie, heart-friendly menu options could receive discounted rates at local fitness centers. Employees and members of the local fitness centers receive discounted prices for eating healthy fare at the restaurants. Cities can certify all businesses that participate in these programs and promote and advertise their participation in the community. And entrepreneurs can gain immediate membership in the programs when they establish their business.
  4. Get people to the dentist. Citizens with good oral health view their lives better, make healthier choices, are less likely to have periodontal disease, and significantly reduce their chances of having many other negative health outcomes that substantially increase their per-person healthcare costs. Cities can recruit and subsidize dentists to serve non-paying customers in exchange for free advertising and publicity. Doing so will promote a workforce that has significantly lower healthcare costs for employers, and this in turn can encourage the formation of new businesses.
  5. Recruit local colleges and universities to create intellectually stimulating environments. It's no coincidence that college towns -- which can offer residents rich opportunities to learn new and interesting things each day -- tend to have high well-being generally. Local academia provides a foundation and environment for culture, learning, debate, and advancement. The more a community can maximize the strengths of these institutions, the more it will engender a lively intellectual culture comprised of an informed and active citizenry.
  6. Promote the importance -- and existence -- of open and trusting workplaces. Workers who are exposed to an open and trusting environment may be more likely to pursue an entrepreneurial path. And entrepreneurs who are considering starting a new business may be more likely to choose communities where open and trusting work environments are the norm.

To learn more about the links between entrepreneurism and well-being, read "In U.S., Entrepreneurs Have Health Edge" on

The discoveries highlighted in this article are based on more than 270,000 phone interviews -- including interviews with 6,896 entrepreneurs -- that were conducted between January 2011 and September 2012 with randomly selected American workers as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. "Entrepreneurs" are defined in this research as workers who self-identified as both "self-employed" and as a "business owner." The results summarized in this article represent statistically significant and meaningfully large distinguishing factors in what it means to be an entrepreneur from a well-being perspective. All results are shown after controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, income, education, marital status, and weekly hours worked.


Dan Witters is Research Director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Sangeeta Agrawal is a Research Manager at Gallup.

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