Phoenix Mayor Stanton and others gather to discuss urban entrepreneurship

Phoenix Mayor Stanton spoke about small businesses and entrepreneurship during Phoenix's White House Urban Economic Forum at the Cronkite school Friday. (Mauro Whiteman/DD)

Dozens of panelists, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, gathered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School Friday for Phoenix’s White House Urban Economic Forum, focusing on how to promote urban entrepreneurship.

Stanton spoke with U.S. Small Business Administration Deputy Administrator Marie Johns in a discussion moderated by Fox 10 anchor John Hook.

Stanton promoted a grassroots economic system that depends on making Phoenix attractive to entrepreneurs who will start small businesses, rather than trying to convince large corporations to move their headquarters or regional branches to Phoenix.

“The old model of economic development where you try to recruit a Fortune 500 company to pull up stakes and move from one part of the country to another — I’m not sure that was ever a real model of economic development, but it certainly isn’t a law of economic development today,” Stanton said.

Stanton attributed a rise in urban entrepreneurship to a “lifestyle change” he said took place among young people who prefer to live in the city.

Johns echoed that sentiment, adding that entrepreneurship and small-business ownership seems to be on the rise.

“We’d like to think at the SBA that we’re in the midst of another renaissance of the importance of small businesses,” Johns said.

Phoenix has serious investment in its real estate, Stanton said, but it needs to promote its health and technology industries more effectively to investors.

“There is a false perception in the venture capitalist world that people in this community are not worth investing in,” he said.

Stanton said Phoenix is “on the rise” in terms of its professional talent. He called the decision to create the ASU Downtown campus “one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made” and praised the light rail’s impact on nearby local businesses.

The Urban Economic Forum took place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Panelists included Retha Hill, executive director of the Cronkite School’s Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab; Kimber Lanning, director of Local First Arizona; and Derek Neighbors, co-founder of Gangplank.

The event was the fifth in a series of discussions in cities around the country.

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