Corporate Localism

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"Adjacent to the discussion is that tech companies are proving themselves more willing to engage with government actors directly, after having built up a reputation for seeing governments as things to be routed around.

Etsy, for example, started working with the New York City Department of Small Business Services to help locals turn their crafts into businesses. Yelp has teamed up with the U.S. Small Business Administration to help business owners understand how to navigate the world of online reviews. It’s worth noting that little of what Airbnb is proposing in Portland requires the actual involvement of the city apparatus proper. A cynical take might say that by being of service to cash-strapped governments, Airbnb is putting itself in a good position with those elected officials who benefit most from any resulting economic boon and earning a bit of inoculation when, say, regulators start nosing around its business models.

Partnering with a corporation is something that cities, in the past, may have limited to one-off deals. Yet partnering with a corporate platform like Airbnb is something that cities can go after whole hog. Imagine how different things would look if, say, the city of Portland were entering into a project to reimagine the nature of the city with Marriott, Inc.

A new emerging model of corporate citizenship — corporate localism? — is catching on, and it will only scale quickly from here. (That expected growth curve is one reason this column, in a move that now looks especially prescient, is called The Shared City.) "Our goal," Chesky writes, "is to become even better partners with more and more cities over the coming months and years." (