Community Empowerment: Improve City of Emeryville

The following open letter is a part of the Presidio Graduate School’s Capital Markets course. For one of the course assignments, students write a letter to an oversight body, government entity or other appropriate institution. The topic: changing the sector of capital markets that relates to their chosen topic so it reinforces principles of sustainability. Follow along here.

An Open Letter to Vice Mayor Jennifer West, City of Emeryville, CA

Dear Vice Mayor West,

As MBA students at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, we work to develop programs that promote greater community supported entrepreneurship through local involvement and investment.

Today, small enterprises are stifled because of an inability to raise funds.  Storefronts are empty and citizens are desperately looking for work.  Yet, there is no shortage of people in the community who would be interested in investing in local business development making local community investments, and no shortage of micro-enterprises who can reward such investors. As you may know, Emeryville currently has no community investing tool in place to allow its community, customers, neighbors, and friends to support local Emeryville enterprises and small businesses.

Now that Governor Brown is prepared to eliminate funding from the Community Redevelopment Agency, it is the time for Emeryville to consider taking action on sourcing funds and involvement from within our own community.  We hereby petition the City Council of Emeryville to consider the following alternative and/or supplemental sources for local business development and job creation:

  1. Partner with community banks and agree to place a portion of its investment portfolio in local community banks. By partnering with local banks, we can help make resources available to support community reinvestment efforts.
  2. Leverage this partnership by encouraging banks to create a targeted Certificate of Deposits providing investment potential in projects that directly affect the citizens of Emeryville.  For example, a new concession stand at the community skateboard park, or a Certificate of Deposits pool, which supports new micro enterprises, are ways in which investments can directly impact citizens.
  3. Establish a crowdfunding campaign that encourages a stakeholder relationship with citizens by allowing direct investment in local micro enterprises and small community projects. Unlike traditional models, which rely on large commitments from one or two institutions, crowdfunding is based on raising smaller sums from many people, who may be linked by social networks or shared interests.  One example of successful crowdfunding is Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, of which 49% of funds raised came from small contributions of the amount or $200 or less.

Vice Mayor West, Emeryville is the perfect city to pioneer the expansion of alternative funding models into the civic arena.  Investing directly in Emeryville businesses takes the local movement to the next level. We believe Emeryville has an opportunity to align its development goals with the passion of its citizens. Thank you very much for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you.


Susan Donaldson
Timothy Terry
Soong Hay Wong

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