Small Business Resilience

The health and vitality of small businesses are critical to the economic well-being of every community. Mt. Auburn Associates has long recognized their value and has engaged in multiple efforts to support the small business community and to ensure that all small business owners have the resources critical to their continued success.

This work has involved the design of revolving loan funds and other innovative financing tools as well as the design of local entrepreneurship development strategies often focused on economically disadvantaged, minority, and women entrepreneurs. Mt. Auburn's approach is to look at the entire small business support ecosystem and to focus on system barriers that, if addressed, could produce broad impact on the small business sector.

State and local governments have sought out Mt. Auburn's expertise in thinking about small business recovery and resilience following drastic disruptions caused by some type of disaster. For instance, Mt. Auburn documented the economic recovery efforts in New York following the World Trade Center attacks, provided strategic planning assistance for New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and, more recently, consulted to communities in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts in the development of longer term strategies to support their economy and small businesses resilience following a national gas explosion that caused extensive disruption.

Mt Auburn has evaluated the impact and effectiveness of many small business development programs. Most recently, we evaluated Massachusetts' MGCC program, which provides grants to community-based technical assistance providers, and the Foundation for Business Equity's BEI initiative, which provides support to growing minority-owned firms in the Commonwealth. These evaluations involve the development of financial and economic metrics and surveys, along with interviews and focus groups with small business owners to ensure their voices inform the evaluation.

Merrimack Valley Disaster Recovery Assistance. On September 13, 2018, the communities of Andover, Lawrence, and North Andover were rocked by as many as 80 explosions and fires caused by over-pressurized gas lines owned by Columbia Gas. The disaster damaged or destroyed more than 130 buildings, displaced residents, and killed one person. The disaster also created an economic shock to the small business ecosystem in the area. Mt. Auburn Associates worked with a broad coalition in the affected areas, including the city of Lawrence, towns of Andover and North Andover, Essex County Community Foundation, Lawrence Partnership, EforAll/EparaTodos, Mill Cities Community Investments, Merrimack Valley Career Center, and Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, to inform and support strategy development to improve the business support system in the affected area. Our team developed recommendations for building a strong and resilient business recovery and support ecosystem based on input from local stakeholders, an understanding of the regional context, and national best practices. According to the coalition, by May 2019, more than 70 percent of the nearly 900 small locally-owned businesses impacted by the explosions returned to pre-crisis operations.

Evaluation of the Foundation for Business Equity's Business Equity Initiative (BEI). In 2019, the Foundation for Business Equity retained Mt. Auburn Associates to conduct an evaluation of BEI, an initiative with an innovative approach to addressing the growing income inequities in Massachusetts by providing high-touch, customized strategic advising to Black and Latinx entrepreneurs with high growth potential. Mt. Auburn first developed a Theory of Change for the initiative based on the staff's articulation of the purpose and goals of the program, and then created a data guide outlining the evaluative efforts that would take place over time and the set of metrics to capture internally and externally at various program intervals. The firm then analyzed self-reported data from participating enterprises and conducted a series of interviews and surveys with both strategic advisors and participating enterprises. Based on this research, Mt. Auburn reported on the overall impact of the early cohorts of BEI and provided feedback on BEI activities, including areas for potential improvement.

Bring New Orleans Back Commission. The Economic Development Committee of the BNOB Commission asked Mt. Auburn to review preliminary economic development recommendations and to supplement these recommendations. In response, Mt. Auburn developed and submitted to the Committee a set of short- and long-term recommendations. Short-term recommendations addressed workforce retraining, industry retention, rebuilding organizational capacity, restoring key industry sectors, and reducing economic disparities. Long-term recommendations focused on repositioning the local economy through increased technology transfer and commercialization, developing emerging industry sectors, and expanding the supply of development capital.

World Trade Center Economic Recovery: Rebuilding the Economy of Lower Manhattan. Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) retained Mt. Auburn to assess New York State Economic Recovery Programs that were designed to respond to the September 11th attacks. Mt. Auburn's work focused primarily on ESD's business outreach efforts, early economic recovery activity, and the design and implementation of its business loan and grant programs. The report found that the recovery programs, which included loans, grants, and technical assistance, reached a large proportion of impacted businesses in Lower Manhattan and were implemented in a timely fashion. Our report also recommended that federal laws and policies be reviewed and revised to address the economic recovery needs of large-scale disasters, and that state and local governments, with the help of the Department of Homeland Security, take measures to better prepare themselves for economic emergencies.

Mile High Connects: Analysis of the Denver Region's Small Business Technical Assistance System. Mile High Connects, in partnership with the Denver Foundation, City of Denver Office of Economic Development, and Denver Small Business Support Coalition, selected Mt. Auburn Associates to conduct an analysis of the Denver region's small business technical assistance system. This project was part of a larger effort to leverage the region's multibillion-dollar investment in the FasTracks Program to generate expanded employment opportunities across all skill levels along the new transit lines. Mt. Auburn Associates worked closely with the project steering committee to complete an assessment of the Denver regional small business support system and to develop recommendations to improve the overall system and its capacity to enhance middle-skill job creation around rapid transit lines. Mt. Auburn's work resulted in a memo that summarized our findings on the current small business support system and provided recommendations to improve the system.