Eight out of the crowded field of Democratic candidates attended the BBEx Wealth and Politics Summit on Sunday, Jan. 15, to answer questions about their plans to support the Black small business community, should they be elected.
Candidates Helen Gym, Derek Green, Cherelle Parker, Rebecca Rhynhart, Allan Domb, Jeff Brown, Jimmy DeLeon and Maria Quiñones Sánchez were in attendance at the forum, held at the P4 Hub in Germantown. (The 2022-launched coworking-and-more space’s full title: Public Private and Philanthropic Partnership Hub for Advancing Racial Equity and Excellence.) They each explained their background, the work they’ve done so far, and what they plan to do if elected mayor of the city.
Entrepreneurship has long been seen as a wealth generator, and Philly is known as one of the United States’ poorest big cities. Will these candidates prioritize small biz advocacy, or access to funding? Will they boost the number of local resources meant to support Black entrepreneurs, or invest in those already in existence?
Here’s a brief look at what the candidates said.
Gym was previously a Philly public school teacher who became a city councilmember in 2016.
“You can’t become an entrepreneur, you can’t start your own business, unless you yourself are supported,” she said.
Gym said she thinks it’s important to provide childcare and other support for families who are trying to run a small business. She said it’s also important to invest in incubators and support centers that already exist in Philly’s neighborhoods, and that the city needs to make sure the public and private sector are both working to help businesses in the city.
Green is a lawyer and small business owner who became a city councilmember at-large in 2016.
Green said his lived experience as a Black business owner informs the way he would act as mayor and that everyone working in the city should understand that experience to best support Black businesses in the city. He said the city should work toward better access to credit for Black businesses.
Prior to becoming a city councilmember in 2016, Parker served as a state rep for the 200th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 10 years.
Parker said she plans to hire a deputy mayor for minority business growth whose job it is to focus on helping the small biz community.
“It has to be somebody’s business to grow Black businesses and to make sure that communication between the Black business community, the administration and overall the City of Philadelphia is actually happening,” she said.
— Shawn (@shawn_mooring) January 15, 2023
Rhynhart worked in various roles for the City of Philadelphia before becoming the first woman in the city controller role in 2018.
She said with her city government experience, she wants to identify a specific role to communicate with small businesses and make sure all processes are accessible, with a goal to make starting a small business more equitable in Philadelphia.
Domb is a real estate entrepreneur who became a a city councilmember at-large in 2016.
Domb said he’d prioritize implementing more efficient processes for starting a business. Additionally, he said every city district should implement an “entrepreneurial advisor” whose job is to help people expand or open businesses.
“You need one person to go through all those systems and bring it from the start to the finish,” he said.
Brown is an executive in the grocery store industry.
He said he doesn’t think the city has many legislators who are experts in business, or Philadelphia. He said as mayor with business experience, he would veto any legislation that is not good for businesses.
DeLeon was a judge for Philadelphia Courts for 35 years.
He said he believes that people who need resources for their business should be able to go to the various Chambers of Commerce in the city (including the African American Chamber of Commerce) and receive guidance for their business, adding that the city should “advertise” its small businesses.
“We want to sell you and we want you to sell us,” he said.
He said it would be in his best interest as mayor to invest in small business so the city’s economy is strong.
Quiñones Sánchez was the first Puerto Rican woman to become a city councilmember when she joined in 2008.
She said that the city tends to contract with the same companies over and over who may not be best for the job, and that it’s a mayor’s responsibility to call that out and try to change that cycle. She also said as mayor, she would streamline the process to start a small business.
You can watch the full forum and summit on Youtube:
P.S. This forum was part of the Every Voice, Every Vote Project with The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Technical.ly is also involved in this project and is currently collecting questions for the mayoral candidates about the innovation economy in Philadelphia from now until Feb.1.Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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