Washington News Service : SEATTLE - Like many cities across the country, Seattle is finding great wealth often brings great wealth disparity.
The Emerald City has the fifth highest median income among large U.S. cities, is home to two tech giants in Amazon and Microsoft and is the nation's fastest growing big city.
But some Seattleites see the downside of this growth as lower-income residents, particularly people of color, are being left behind.
Beto Yarce, executive director of the small business support group Ventures, is part of the People's Economy Project. He says his mission is to help small businesses with a hand up instead of a handout.
"Creating a solution to alleviate poverty through economic empowerment," he states. "So, what does that mean? It's like creating business development training programs and really educate these communities on how do they budget better.
"How do they make better decisions about their money? How do they change their relationship with their money?"
The People's Economy Project brings together small business developers with the goal of increasing minority owned businesses and providing assets for lower-income communities in Seattle, noting that small businesses act as neighborhood anchors.
The project takes its agenda on the road this fall to neighborhoods that have benefited least from the city's rapid growth.
Rachel Maxwell, executive director, Community Sourced Capital, is also part of the People's Economy Project. Her organization helps crowd source zero interest loans for local small businesses. She says the project came out of a concern that the economy isn't serving all Seattle residents.
"All those folks were convened to consider what were the questions, and design some initiatives that they could present to the civic leaders in Seattle around how it might look, or what might be different, or new things that could happen that would develop a people-powered economy here," she explains.
Maxwell notes that the project's agenda can be implemented in any city. She credits the Northwest for being open to new approaches to protecting communities' assets.