Next City: Oakland CDFI Creates a Culture of Quality Job Creation

By Oscar Perry Abello

“I really saw firsthand with my dad what it meant not only to grow a business but also grow it in a way that benefits his employees,” Corona says. “I often refer to my dad as a social entrepreneur before it was trendy. He paid his employees well, better than surrounding farms. He helped some of his employees start their own farms. I saw a community be supported by one business.”

Those memories and lessons have stuck with Corona throughout his career. In 2004, working in the nonprofit sector in the Bay Area, he was recruited to take over what was then Oakland Advisors, part of a small national network of organizations focusing on inner-city communities and businesses started by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. Its mission was to provide pro bono advice and technical assistance to help business growth and job creation in Oakland. Corona added his own spin, rooted in the values and vision he remembers from childhood.

“We [became] very selective on the companies that we work with,” says Corona, who’s now director of equity and strategic partnerships for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “It was not sufficient for them to create a job for job’s sake, but good jobs, good pay, good benefits and also good culture. Do they provide the right working environment for people to thrive and work with dignity? That became a big tenet of our work.”

Oakland Advisors became Inner City Advisors (ICA), which later became ICA Fund Good Jobs, and it celebrated its 20th anniversary last November. At that point, it had served more than 500 entrepreneurs, helping them create more than 5,000 jobs, and more than $65 million in employee earnings in the Bay Area. Focusing on quality jobs is becoming a trend among community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which is why ICA Fund Good Jobs was one of five CDFIs featured in a new report, Reducing Income Inequality: How CDFIs Promote Job Quality, from the Opportunity Finance Network, a nationwide network of CDFIs.

OFN commissioned its report to help all CDFI small business lenders and CDFI investors develop an understanding of practical approaches and tools they can use to promote quality job creation. The report compares and contrasts various aspects of each CDFI’s model for creating quality jobs, starting with their definitions.

Read complete article at Next City’s Equity Factor.