Kennedy Smith is a Senior Researcher for ILSR’s Independent Business Initiative. Her work focuses on analyzing the factors that threaten small businesses. She also develops program and policy tools that communities can use to level the playing field for small businesses and to build thriving economies.

Since joining ILSR’s staff in spring of 2020, Kennedy has focused primarily on helping small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Her “Big List of COVID-19 Assistance Programs” has been visited nearly 200,000 times and has helped communities throughout the nation create programs to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her 2020 report, Safeguarding Small Business During the Pandemic: 26 Strategies for Local Leaders, has been the focus of more than a dozen workshops and conferences, including events for the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and for statewide organizations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina.

Her current work includes reining in the predatory practices of third-party delivery apps, encouraging development of healthy food stores in underserved neighborhoods, and strengthening federal government support for small businesses.

Kennedy’s work at ILSR builds on her years of on-the-ground experience helping towns and cities throughout North America build vibrant downtowns and neighborhood commercial centers. She served as the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center for 14 years, where she collaborated with ILSR on issues like highlighting the dangers to small businesses of big-box development. Through her consulting work with the Community Land Use and Economics Group, which she co-founded in 2004, she has helped communities throughout the world find solutions to tough revitalization and business development challenges.

In addition to her work at ILSR, Kennedy teaches a graduate-level course on historic preservation economics for Goucher College and serves as an advisor to the Community Land Use and Economics Group. She has an undergraduate degree in urban studies from Bryn Mawr College and a masters in architecture from the University of Virginia, and she was a 2005-2006 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Fast Company included Kennedy on its first list of the “Fast 50 Champions of Innovation,” recognizing “creative thinkers whose sense of style and power of persuasion change what our world looks like and how our products perform.” She has been honored by Planetizen, one of the nation’s top urban planning forums, as one of the “100 Most Influential Urbanists of All Time” (2017) and one of the “100 Top Urban Thinkers” (2009).


Articles by Kennedy Smith

– Twitter: @kennedysmith

– email: kennedy [at]