In a time of historic income inequality, after a decade in which most American workers experienced stagnant or declining hourly wages, and as jobs are increasingly either high- or low-wage, the current challenge for the United States economy is evident: improving job quality. Creating jobs is not adequate to addressing our economy’s trajectory towards inequality and a diminished working class. Creating good jobs is imperative.
Cities, including Oakland, CA, are increasingly taking direct action to create high quality jobs. Citizens of Oakland, ranked the seventh most unequal city in the United States, recently demonstrated their commitment to economic equity by passing a minimum wage increase from $9 to $12.25. Inner City Advisors (ICA) is working within this growing movement of addressing job quality at the local level through innovative economic development – addressing both the employer and employee sides of the equation. ICA partners with small, locally-owned businesses that have a high potential for job growth to ensure that the jobs they create are good jobs.
To ICA CEO, Jose Corona, good jobs mean jobs that pay living wages, offer benefits, and provide career ladders. Yet working at the intersection of entrepreneurship support and talent management, Corona’s organization knows that growing “Good Jobs” starts with scaling successful businesses – creating “Good Employers”. That’s why ICA continually refines its model in order to grow thriving companies, create good jobs quickly and sustainably, and ensure that local community members have access to those jobs. This work has enabled ICA to partner with some of the Bay Area’s most innovative companies, with leaders committed to both running a successful business and providing quality jobs.
An ICA company for the last eight years, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, an Oakland-based roastery, has coupled its increasing dominance of the Bay Area coffee market with a commitment to its employees. As Blue Bottle increased its number of employees by 103% between 2010 and 2013, the company paid employees an average of $13.25 per hour – 33% above the $9.90 average hourly wage for coffee shop workers in Oakland and above the newly implemented minimum wage in Oakland. In addition to having access to healthcare, dental care, and sick days, almost a quarter of Blue Bottle employees received increased wages or additional hours in 2013.
Revolution Foods, a company ICA has partnered with since 2005, is another success story. Revolution Foods has worked towards its mission of providing all school kids healthy and nutritious lunches, while paying above industry average wages for over 1,000 employees.
Finding that access to capital is critical to growing good jobs, ICA launched a capital fund – Fund Good Jobs – to support partner companies. Now a separate 501c3 organization helmed by Managing Director, Sean Murphy, the Fund has to date deployed over $1 million in investments to Oakland companies, enabling companies to create good jobs by using capital as a way to influence and incentivize small businesses to invest in impact – creating good jobs.
In addition to working with Fund Good Jobs’ unique mix of capital, ICA also positions companies to access funding from a broad array of sources. Case in point: Revolution Foods recently secured investment from Steve Case’s Revolution Growth fund, while in early 2014 Blue Bottle closed over $25MM in funding from funds like Google Ventures, True Ventures, Twitter founder Evan Williams, and Instagram co-creator Kevin Systrom. ICA companies like Blue Bottle and Revolution Foods are proving that mainstream investors will support not only strong, innovative businesses, but also those with a commitment to creating good jobs for local residents.
Job creation is important for the economy. Good Employers and Good Job creation is essential for an inclusive economy, and thus has become a critical aspect of economic development work at the city level. The work of ICA, which in 2013 alone created and retained 2,717 jobs with an average hourly wage of $14.50, is proving the viability and impact of innovative companies committed to creating good jobs for the benefit of local communities.
 Occupational Employment Statistics. (May 2013). Oakland-Fremont-Hayward Metropolitan Division. May 2012 estimate for Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop.
 QWI. (2012). Average Monthly Earnings. 2012 Quarter 2. Alameda County. Food Services and Drinking Places.