Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Community Development

A New Way to Talk About Small Business: The Time Has Come for a Common Language

Author(s): Penelope Douglas and Lauren Friedman Dixon, Pacific Community Ventures

February 1, 2011

Community Development Working Papers

There is a steady call for policies and programs to help small business lead the charge in hiring more workers and helping to restore prosperity to areas that have been hurt by the recession. To be successful, however, it is time for academics, policymakers, investors, community leaders, and business owners to have a more fruitful discussion about what small business actually needs. Such a discussion is imperative now, during a time of financial crisis, but it is also necessary if we are to help move the sector forward in the coming years. In this paper, we are proposing that we adopt a common language based on a new small business taxonomy that can make this conversation more productive by bridging the communication gaps between various stakeholders. In an effort to create that common language, support policy creation, and enhance future discussions, this paper lays out a a system of policies and programs – a support structure – for small business using a simple taxonomy of small-business categories based on revenue. Ideally, this will lead to more efficient models for small business growth, including much needed job growth as the nation emerges from the recession.

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