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Small Business Liaison

If you have a passion for mission-driven work and economic empowerment experience serving minority-owned and independently-owned local businesses, this position presents an exciting opportunity to join a small team with a big agenda.

Somerville is a petri-dish for changes engulfing America’s coastal cities. Dubbed Slummerville by some as recently as thirty years ago, the city is undergoing a breakneck transformation, grappling with pitfalls that run parallel with economic and cultural opportunities. Nowhere is Somerville’s change more concentrated than in Union Square. 

Historically a highly diverse working-class immigrant community, a streetcar suburb providing a workforce for local industries such as meat-packing and, later, automobile construction, and laborers for Harvard and MIT campuses, Union Square offered affordable housing and a home for family-operated immigrant businesses.

With the growing attractiveness of urban living, Somerville by the late nineties became sought after rather than shunned. Rents went up; demographics shifted. In Union Square, a former manufacturing complex became home to a brewery, a rock climbing gym, and the largest makerspace on the East Coast. Families moved out; singles moved in. Rents increased. Small businesses collapsed, while restaurants and bars proliferated; displacement anecdotes were the perennial topic among long-term residents. Meanwhile, new entrepreneurial businesses developed, reflecting or responding to the new population and a shifting economy - incubator spaces, workshare space, a cafe/brewpub culture, makerspace. 

Already a bus hub, Union Square will soon have a station on the Green Line Extension, currently under construction and opening next year. As a transit-oriented mixed use urban center, the district is adjusting to the reality of up to 5 million square feet of new development, that offers the potential of new customers and new opportunities but also threatens to overwhelm the very culture that helped attract investment in the first place. The threat was evident before COVID-19 devastated small businesses nationwide.

The small, often immigrant-owned, businesses of Union Square are the critical and most visible component of a unique urban culture that has celebrated difference, racial and economic diversity, and cultural complexity. The Square has prioritized innovation, creativity and independence over standardization, homogenized national chains, and pandering to dominant cultural norms. The community has a strong commitment to creating and preserving a business environment that resists inequality. 

Union Square Main Streets (USMS) [1] is an established nonprofit, supported by public funding, donations, and community events such as the Farmers Market and the Fluff Festival, that works to strengthen the dynamic neighborhood of businesses and people in Union Square by:

  • promoting and celebrating the Square’s unique and spirited character
  • advocating for and assisting local businesses
  • working to create welcoming public spaces
  • and fostering connection and collaboration among diverse stakeholders and partners. 

Since 2005, USMS has served the small businesses that make up the dynamic neighborhood of Union Square. These ethnic restaurants and grocery stores, entrepreneurial start-ups, and shops offering a spectrum of services are a big part of the glue that holds Union Square together. Many of these are owned or staffed by recent or longer-term immigrants.

This is a particularly meaningful time to work with USMS. Working with the City of Somerville, USMS is partnering with residents, businesses, the master developer (US2) [2] and other property owners to shape the Square’s future in a way that will preserve the unique character of the Square while taking advantage of new and emerging industries, increasing demand for housing, and the arrival of the Green Line Extension in 2021. USMS works closely with the City and the community in transit-oriented planning efforts.  

The USMS Small Business Liaison will play an integral and multi-faceted role in USMS’ work and be charged with working closely with the USMS Executive Director and staff as well as USMS committees to confront these challenges:

  • Preserving and nurturing Union Square’s unique small business composition by providing support for permitting and licenses processes, business plan development, lease negotiations, and other technical assistance designed to strengthen individual businesses 
  • Supporting businesses as they adapt to five years of disruptive City infrastructure improvements and 20 years of major development construction ahead, including developing plans to mitigate temporary or permanent displacement.
  • Developing creative strategies to incorporate small locally-owned business and entrepreneurial activity in new development
  • Collaborating with development stakeholders (e.g., US2) to identify ways new development can strength the district and support the goals of USMS 
  • Helping businesses explore the benefits of achieving High Road Employer status with the American Sustainable Business Council  [this is in the CBA]
  • Responding to emerging realities in businesses whether they be specific to recovering from COVID-19 impacts or more broad in terms the general evolution of retail 
  • Increasing economic opportunity for minority-owned businesses that for far too long have not had equitable access to entrepreneurial resources 

This position provides an exciting opportunity to build experience and networks while expanding knowledge and gaining skills related to place-based economic empowerment. 

The position is built on:

  • USMS’ 15 years of serving the Union Square business district, 
  • The findings of a recent environmental scan conducted in conjunction with our Strategic Planning work (now nearing completion), 
  • Data collected through the USMS COVID-19 Impact Survey in March 2020, and
  • A clear commitment to increasing economic opportunity for minority-owned and independent businesses.

Small Business Liaison responsibilities and tasks may include, but are not limited to:

  • Working in tandem with the Executive Director, establishing and nurturing meaningful, supportive, and authentic relationships with local business leaders 
  • Supporting Union Square businesses:
  • Navigating Somerville’s permitting and licensing processes
  • Developing business plans
  • Negotiating leases
  • Accessing capital
  • Implement low cost marketing strategies 
  • Working with the Executive Director to develop strategies with developers to preserve and support USMS goals 
  • Recruiting business leaders to participate in and/or host monthly Business Meetings and participate in events like the Holiday Stroll and Fluff Festival
  • Supporting business leader recruitment to join USMS committees in order to position the business to contribute to activities in the Square, network with other business leaders, and provide pathways to leadership opportunities, such as Board service 
  • Contributing to planning, organizing, and executing programs and events based upon USMS priorities that serve local businesses
  • Contributing to the development of fundraising proposals and reports 
  • Data collection, documentation, and invoicing for funders 


  • Belief in and a solid understanding of economic empowerment goals and strategies 
  • A minimum of 2 years experience providing small business technical assistance, mentoring, and/or improved access to resources
  • Experience with diversity-focused entrepreneurial ecosystems   
  • Ability to communicate effectively in more than one language, with a strong preference for English, Spanish, and/or Portugese
  • Knowledgeable about the use of varied digital platforms and mechanisms to support knowledge sharing and communication among individuals with varying degrees of digital literacy 
  • A keen interest in researching and analyzing data and best practices related to communities and economic empowerment    
  • Bachelor’s degree preferred 
  • Excellent organizational skills, ability to problem solve, prioritize, and meet deadlines
  • Strong written and interpersonal communication skills 
  • Detail oriented and able to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Strong computer skills, including Google Drive 
  • A high degree of personal and professional integrity
  • Passion for community-driven work and working with a small team with a big agenda
  • Sense of humor

This nonexempt position will be compensated with a nonnegotiable salary of $50,000 and generous benefits package. 

How to Apply: Send a letter or video of interest and resume to [3] by October 30, 2020.


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