The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) believes America's inner cities have competitive business advantages that, if understood properly and exploited strategically, can produce highly successful companies. Moreover, successful companies will, in a variety of significant ways, positively impact the quality of life in their communities.

In 1999, ICIC and Inc. Magazine began publishing the Inner City 100 (IC 100), a list of the 100 fastest-growing companies located in low-income urban neighborhoods. Each year, the number of applicants and the quality of the winners have become more impressive, convincing even hardened skeptics of the business advantages of inner-city locations. But what is the impact of these companies on their communities?

To answer that question, ICIC created the Inner City 100 Impact Index (ICII). The ICII uses data collected during the IC 100 application process along with interviews and follow-up surveys to determine the breadth, depth, and quality of a company's impact on its community. The index includes the number of inner-city residents each company employs, salary, and wage rates and benefits packages. Data on the level of use of local suppliers is also calculated.

Other measurements include:

  • The amount of direct community involvement on all levels: corporate, management, and employee;
  • Information on programs that encourage employees to become involved in community activities;
  • Community programs either sponsored or supported by the company;
  • The amount and type of activities the owner or CEO participates in as a representative of the company.

This data was combined and each company given a numerical score.

The findings support ICIC theories that successful businesses positively impact their communities. IC 100 companies hire local residents and pay competitive wages (averaging $13.80/hr. and $41,309/yr.). Ninety-seven percent of the companies offer health care benefits and 76 percent offer 401K plans. They support other local businesses, create tax revenue, and help inner-city-resident employees develop valuable workplace skills.

In addition, 43 percent of the IC 100 said their urban location or community involvement has become a part of their brand and thus a valuable business asset.

The companies received final scores ranging from 10.4 to 174. A low score indicates a low level of interaction, while a high score indicates multiple engagements with the surrounding community. The high-scoring companies hire local residents, pay competitive wages, support other local businesses, and actively seek to make a difference beyond their business operations through volunteerism and contributions of time and money.

The scoring was relatively equally distributed: 22 percent of the companies had scored between 10 and 45; 28 percent were between 45 and 70; 26 percent between 70 and 105, and 24 percent scored 105 or better.

The highest-scoring companies averaged 723 percent growth in sales, a pace greater than the 647 percent average for the Inner City 100 as a whole. The correlation between high growth rates and high community impact was not uniform. Some low-impact companies also had higher-than-average growth rates. However, the significance is that companies with high community involvement were not slowed by the extensive extra-business activity.

Stuyvesant Press (#44 on the 2003 Inner City 100 list), a commercial printing company based in Irvington, NJ, received a community-impact score of 174, the highest of all companies rated. Michael Roesch, Stuyvesant's CEO, is the president of the Irvington Special Improvement District, for which he helped win federal designation, and sits on the board of directors of the local chamber of commerce. Stuyvesant purchases printing supplies from local companies, sponsors a youth baseball team, hosts a holiday party for area senior citizens, and works with the local Red Cross. As Roesch puts it, "Any more community interaction and I'd be running my own non-profit group."

Giving Back

Company: Stuyvesant Press, Inc.
Location: Irvington, NJ
Business Description: Provides commercial printing, distribution, and mailing services
2001 Revenues: $2,581,481
CAGR: 49%
Five-year Growth: 399%
Web site:

Give lemons to Stuyvesant Press CEO Michael Roesch and he's sure to make lemonade. Knowing he wasn't the "college type" and not enjoying his two-month stint as an encyclopedia salesman, Roesch moved home and began delivering newspapers. In no time, he had the largest route in northern New Jersey. One of his customers got Roesch his first job in a small print shop cleaning presses. Soon after, in 1977, he bought his own printing company. He's also made lemonade out of a blighted, vacant, crime-ridden area of Irvington, NJ. He organized local business owners, got the area declared a Special Improvement District, and today, crime is down, cleanliness is up, and companies are moving back into the area.