Small Business ForwardWASHINGTON, D.C., July 22, 2014 – JPMorgan Chase & Co. today launched Small Business ForwardSM, a five-year, $30 million grant program to boost small business support networks that help growing enterprises in specific industries. Small Business Forward connects entrepreneurs with critical resources to help their businesses grow, create jobs and strengthen communities.

Small businesses can increase their impact on a region’s competitiveness and economic output through business concentrations known as economic “clusters.” In fact, nearly half of the high performing clusters in the nation’s 10 largest metros grew roughly three times faster than other local businesses between 2003 and 2011, according to a new study from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).

“Beyond their vital role in our economy, small businesses are often the source of innovation and inspiration,” said Scott Geller, CEO of Chase Business Banking. “Helping local, small business clusters grow faster and create more jobs will take JPMorgan Chase’s involvement in the entrepreneurial community to a new level.”

JPMorgan Chase launched Small Business Forward at a forum supported by Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration; U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee; U.S. Senator James Risch, the committee’s ranking member and Rep. Sam Graves, chair of the House Small Business Committee.

 Small Business Forward will fund nonprofit cluster organizations that work with small businesses concentrated in a single sector. In addition to supporting strategic planning and research, JPMorgan Chase’s grants will help cluster organizations provide participating small businesses with:

In addition to their impressive economic growth, businesses participating in high performing clusters typically add more jobs than other businesses in local/regional markets, according to the ICIC research, which was commissioned by JPMorgan Chase. Between 2003 and 2011, many small business clusters outperformed overall employment growth in their metropolitan areas. For example, the Education and Knowledge Creation cluster in Los Angeles increased employment growth by 31 percent compared to general employment growth rates in the city during that eight year period. The Oil and Gas Production and Transportation cluster increased employment growth by 47 percent in Houston during that same time frame. ICIC is a nonprofit research and strategy organization founded by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter in 1994. ICIC’s extensive knowledge of urban economies and small businesses has contributed to the advancement of cluster theory and practice.

“Clusters are driving economic growth in major cities, contributing to job creation, higher wages and innovation. But the impact of clusters on small business growth could be strengthened. Most cities currently lack a unifying strategy for supporting clusters and small businesses,” said Kim Zeuli, ICIC’s Senior Vice President and Director of Research.

Supportive of regional, industry-specific clusters, the SBA applauded JPMorgan Chase for developing the Small Business Forward initiative.

“America’s forward-looking companies are investing in clustered communities, because they see the return on investment,” said SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet. “Clusters speed commercially viable ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace. These are communities with buy-in at every level and a proven support structure that nurtures success.”

Inaugural investments of Small Business Forward’s five year, $30million commitment will touch the following ten cities across the country and then expand to additional markets in the US and abroad:

Small business advocates in Congress and mayors of leading American cities reaffirmed the importance of the Small Business Forward initiative and clusters as economic development tools to accentuate their regional economic strengths and sow the seeds of innovation. 

For more information about the grants and research, visit www.jpmorganchase.com/smallbusinessforward and follow #SmallBizForward on Twitter.

This post was tagged under: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Small Business Forward, Water Sector, Water Cluster, Investment