The City of Fort Worth is exploring ways to adapt the programming and resources currently provided at the Devoyd Jennings Business Assistance Center to ensure that they meet the evolving needs of the city’s small-business community.
The city’s Economic Development Department currently occupies much of the space in the main building of the BAC, and will leave behind empty offices and other areas that might be given new purpose once the team moves to the new City Hall. This impending transition also provided an opportunity to re-evaluate the BAC’s current programming to make sure that it’s equitable and capable of accommodating Fort Worth’s rapid population growth – and the small businesses that come with it.
Last spring, the Economic Development Department brought on Kay West to work on this project as part of a 12-month FUSE Executive Fellowship. West is a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute, and is in Year 2 of her Community and Economic Development Institutional studies.
West performed a thorough review of Fort Worth’s entrepreneurial landscape, alongside reviewing national models and best practices. Through a series of confidential listening tours and community touchpoints, West interviewed 130 people – including small-business owners, civic leaders, community leaders and former BAC employees. She also created a Small Business Survey to collect residents’ thoughts on the BAC’s existing structure and future programming opportunities.
After working with the City and several supporting organizations to spread awareness of the survey, the results from its 216 responses were shared at this week’s Small Business Task Force Meeting.
A few of the highlights:
- 70% of respondents were aware that the City of Fort Worth has a Business Assistance Center for small businesses. However, the gap reflected a lack of promotion and service offerings.
- 73% of respondents believe the BAC should remain in its current location, and not move to another site. Responses also called for more targeted outreach for BAC programs and services within the community.
- 55% of respondents believe that the BAC’s existing standard operating hours should change to better serve the needs of the working-class community. Feedback suggests shifting programs to include after-hours, Saturday events and virtual learning options.
- 91.4% of respondents think the BAC needs dedicated staff to function as intended.
Survey feedback also noted a desire for more co-working spaces and commercialization training programs, and suggested some potential upgrades and renovations to the existing building to modernize it.
View the complete survey results.
The results of this survey will help inform final decisions around the future of the Devoyd Jennings Business Assistance Center, so it is well-equipped to assist new generations of small-business owners through their entrepreneurial journeys.
West will also lead an upcoming Innovation Lab with a limited number of City, community and FUSE stakeholders, to journey map programming solutions so the BAC can sustainably meet the needs of the 13th largest city in the country. Information from this event will inform additional recommendations to support both short- and long-term implementation.