Describe how you see the small business climate.
Jillia Pessenda: Ward 1 is home to many amazing small businesses, including many owned by new immigrants, women and people of color. Ward 1 is also a thriving arts community, and through that is home to a number of working artists and other art-related businesses. These small businesses that make Ward 1 the dynamic place it is are also often overlooked when it comes to City policy, planning and support. I believe that without a true champion at City Hall, the businesses of Ward 1 may face increasing difficulty, which is why my platform includes a number of policies specifically designed to help these businesses thrive.
Kevin Reich: Northeast has been defined by its small businesses and entrepreneurs for generations. And even though some of the families and businesses may have changed, that entrepreneurial spirit lives on strongly. Anyone who represents this Ward must be open and engaged with this key constituency. We continue to be a place where small businesses thrive and new business categories have emerged with vigor: from small scale fabricators and restaurants to artists and a burgeoning brewing district. All of this activity is occurring within the confines of an older urban fabric, which presents regulatory, zoning and remediation challenges. I take pride in meeting these challenges head on, to pave the way in support of the people who really make it happen - our small business people.
John Hayden: Ward 1 has a wonderful small business community that makes our part of Minneapolis special and unique. Despite their invaluable contributions to our community, they have been put under tremendous pressure from new policies passed by City Council. I see the small business climate in our ward as quite unstable.
There are great disparities between minority owned and white businesses in Minneapolis. Entrepreneurs and businesses of color face disparate challenges in everything from access to credit to navigating city licenses and regulations. What policies do you think are needed to increase minority and immigrant owned business ownership and success?
Jillia Pessenda: The City is a very large purchaser of services and goods, and making equity-based decisions in purchases (by following and implementing supplier diversity practices for local, minority and immigrant owned businesses) is a simple way for the City to begin to address some of the massive disparities between white business owners and minority owned businesses. Finding affordable and stable space to operate businesses free from the worry of increasing rents or landlords who do not address tenant needs is another area where the City could help minority owned businesses. Through enforcement actions against landlords and financial assistance programs to assist business owners in purchasing businesses or signing long-term leases, the City of Minneapolis can be a leader in innovative solutions to critical issues to business owners. The city should help support the opening of a commercial land trust. Finally, the City must be sure that the Small Business Office is equipped to publicize the existing City technical assistance programs (such as B-TAP), particularly to minority business owner communities, in whatever ways such communities prefer to receive information (this can be determined most easily by asking these communities how they’d like to receive information). I would also expand C-TAP to continue Minnesota’s strong tradition of cooperatives.
Kevin Reich: We have recently prioritized some city support programs specifically for entrepreneurs and businesses of color instead of being generally open to all that applied. In addition to targeting our Business Technical Assistance Program (B-TAP), we have further made available tools for other models that can be empowering to these groups, such as our newly launched Cooperative Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP). I've been leading on the development of the Artistic and Creative Economy Technical Assistance Program (A-TAP), again with a specific aim to target these resources to people who face disproportionate obstacles to participation in this part of our city's economy.
John Hayden: Minneapolis should do more to provide access to startup capital to all entrepreneurs. The City should also support entrepreneurs with resources and policy that is conducive to starting a business. This means cutting regulations and fees while providing personalized assistance for those trying to navigate the complicated rules and processes.
Cities can do many things to support locally owned businesses. What ideas do you have to support locally owned businesses in Minneapolis?
Jillia Pessenda: Small businesses are the backbone of a vibrant community. I support local businesses and cooperatives, which keeps wealth in our communities; I will vote against corporate handouts, including taxpayer funded stadium deals. As we do more to take care of the most vulnerable workers in our economy, we also need to do more to help our smallest and most vulnerable businesses. Many of the new jobs in our economy come from small business, and these businesses contribute enormously to the vitality of our neighborhoods and drive our local economy. Unfortunately, the City invests a lot in subsidies for corporations, like the one that funded the new stadium. I will:
● Support co-ops, small businesses and businesses owned by people of color, new immigrants and women through city contracts
● Help small businesses navigate the City’s processes through the expansion of the Small Business Office
● Vote against handouts for big business that create an uneven playing field, including the tax-payer funded U.S. Bank Stadium
● Advocate for the City to explore ways in which they can assist local business owners in collective negotiations for necessary and expensive parts of doing business, including payroll services and health insurance.
Advocate for building more small business spaces so startups have affordable places to rent.
Kevin Reich: For many years, even before I was elected to public office, I've been engaged with the small business community in my ward, which is one of the most diverse in the city. They are my longtime friends and neighbors and it has been my honor to serve them. Moving forward, I'm leading the A-TAP initiative, which is in the early stages of development and which will provide resources, assistance and support for the artists and entrepreneurs who make up our creative economy. On a case by case basis, I have defended the kind of zoning that supports small scale business as opposed to large formula business. Moving forward, as one of the elected officials leading the development of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, I will work to codify those zoning protections for the next couple of decades.
John Hayden: We should have a small business committee appointed by Mayor and Council to help craft policy that affects business. Token advisory panels do us no good if they are filled with labor organizers and not a diverse sample of small businesses owners.
What work have you done in your career to date to support locally owned businesses?
Jillia Pessenda: I collaborated with the Land Stewardship Project in 2012 to change city zoning laws to allow urban farming and market gardening in Minneapolis. Through this work, I was one of the co-founders of California Street Farm, which grew produce for community members and area restaurants. High school students, who participated in the Step Up program and were employed by California Street, gained valuable urban agriculture experience and learned about local food systems. Currently, I serve on the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, where I work in partnership with other members to expand our ability to grow and distribute more sustainable foods.
Kevin Reich: Prior to being elected to the City Council, I was a project director in Holland neighborhood, the only racially concentrated area of poverty (RCAP) in Ward One. In that role, it was my job to engage with and empower the neighborhood’s small businesses, assisting with business plans, scouting for grants, and helping them leverage financial supports. On the City Council, I have been committed to directing the broader resources of the City enterprise is a similar if larger scale manner. Programs like the above mentioned B-TAP, C-TAP and A-TAP are some examples of that direction. I was also one of the two Council Members leading on the re-organization of the City’s Regulatory Services department with the aim of making it more responsive to and supportive of small businesses. As mentioned above, I am also working to ensure that our Comprehensive Plan’s vision of land use supports the small-scale businesses that make our local economy strong and diversified.
John Hayden: My work with Genesys Works focuses on youth employment. While much of it focuses on corporate internships, it highlights my belief in pro-business solutions to social issues.
Would you support strong proactive outreach to businesses to inform them about earned sick and safe time, minimum wage, and other labor regulations?
Jillia Pessenda: I strongly support the City’s initial commitment to small businesses in their creation of the Small Business Office, and believe this team is an essential piece of a City government that supports all businesses. I also believe that the City has a duty to protect its citizens in the workplace, and support the steps taken so far to ensure workers have a living wage and earned sick and safe time. In order to avoid a “workers vs. owners” mentality, the City must commit to robust and innovative outreach and marketing campaigns to educate all of its business owners and their employees of new and proposed workplace regulations. Many small business owners are also employees in their businesses, and the more the City can do to keep employees and owners on the same team (through explanation of the reasons for new policies, providing technical assistance to small businesses implementing these policies, and long-term informational campaigns as policies come into practice). I also support swift enforcement of new policies (often best done as informational at first, then punitive, such as the enforcement plan for the new Earned Sick and Safe Time protections).
Kevin Reich: Yes.
John Hayden: YES.