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San Diego Betting On Lower-Income Entrepreneurs

The San Diego skyline is pictured in this undated photo.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego skyline is pictured in this undated photo.

The city of San Diego wants to stimulate business growth in low to moderate income communities with a new initiative focused on supporting entrepreneurs from those neighborhoods.

San Diego’s Economic Development Department Director Erik Caldwell said the facility due to open next summer will primarily support entrepreneurs that earn about $30,000 to $70,000 a year, to give them a better chance at success.

"When you talk about entrepreneurs, especially from low to moderate income communities, their businesses fail at higher levels not because of lack of talent, lack of expertise — it's usually because of a lack of capital," Caldwell said.


The accelerator is a partnership between the city of San Diego, which will put up $2.5 million over the next three years, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in Southeast San Diego, and Connect, a start-up support company.

Caldwell said the program is an effort to ensure economic prosperity is accessible to all San Diegans, especially those who do not already have large systems of support.

"The idea is to make early interventions, to connect those (emerging companies) to networks of successful entrepreneurs who can provide that type of assistance in early stage financing that (aspiring entrepreneurs) need to be successful," he said.

Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation Senior Director Bennett Peji said outreach will largely concentrate on the communities of Southeast San Diego, Barrio Logan, Logan Heights and City Heights. He said entrepreneurs of greater financial means will also be considered among the 30 to 40 businesses the accelerator plans to select for mentoring each year.

Business Accelerator Operator RFP
The city of San Diego released this request for proposal in March 2017.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

"We are also open to the idea that there are other businesses who can commit to hire (low to moderate income) employees as well, which would benefit the community as a whole," Peji said.


Connect's H. Puentes, who will lead the facility to be known as Connect All at the Jacobs Center, said it will also include a resource center that can be used by entrepreneurs of any financial background and industry, but that the accelerator would focus on "high-impact, high-opportunity" companies.

"That does not necessarily mean you need to be a technology company, it's just the idea of being able to scale and really create jobs," Puentes said.

A September Brookings Institution report suggested San Diego diversify its high-tech workforce to avoid "shortages that bedevil places like Silicon Valley and ultimately remain prosperous as it becomes majority-minority."

Officials are planning to formally announce the accelerator and resource center in the coming weeks. The city released a request for proposal in March.

San Diego Betting On Lower-Income Entrepreneurs
A new initiative aims to make economic prosperity accessible to all San Diegans.