No responses: Stephanie Gasca and Barbara A. “Barb” Johnson
Describe how you see the small business climate.
Dana Hansen: It is very challenged. There are many obstacles to opening a business and even more obstacles to maintaining a small business.
Phillipe Cunningham: Unfortunately, Ward 4 has not been friendly to small businesses under the long-time tenure of the 4th Ward incumbent. This is something that must change, if our community is to ever move away from social and economic isolation grow into a prosperous, locally self-sufficient community. The number of dilapidated storefronts and missed opportunities for commercial zoning and development far exceeds the number of successful small, locally owned businesses in this part of North Minneapolis. For example, ten years ago, the current incumbent pushed for a year-long moratorium on small business development in a large section of the 4th Ward. Nothing ultimately came of the moratorium or staff-directed study except the stifling of new businesses. More information on this can be found at: https://www.cunninghammpls.org/a-champion-for-entrepreneurs-and-small-businesses/. To this day, CPED and the Bloomberg Innovation Team’s efforts to improve the conditions for even just the existence of a local economy in the 4th Ward have been met with resistance from the incumbent who firmly believes the ward should remain as exclusively single-family home/residential as possible. Just last night, I spoke to a small business owner who lives in the 4th Ward and operates a home renovation business. He shared his frustration with how the Camden Business Association fizzled out because of a lack of interest and energy and now there’s no sense of community and connection between business owners. At nearly every community gathering I have attended, least one person will ask me why do I think there are no businesses in our ward and what is my plan to change that. Despite what most may assume with North Minneapolis, this topic is far more common than public safety. People are eager to see and contribute to Northsider-owned businesses thriving throughout our residential neighborhoods.
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?
Dana Hansen: I would work toward easing licensing requirements, where possible, and also decreasing regulations. At the very least I would I would advocate for more accessibility to information and help working through these.
Phillipe Cunningham: Most conversations about small business owners are rooted primarily in the experience of white business owners because of the disproportionate representation in business ownership. Because of this, most assume the experience of a white business owner is applicable to everyone. The unique challenges of entrepreneurs of color are often erased from the conversation. Further, this erasure is institutionalized by government departments and agencies not disaggregating data collected by racial/ethnic demographics or adding a racial equity lens to how the data is collected in the first place. There are so many great pockets of work happening on the Northside focused on different phases of a business's lifecycle ranging from NEON to Meda. The next steps are for stakeholders to come together to build an ecosystem and work in collaboration with the business owners, the customers, and the investors. As the Councilmember for the 4th Ward, I will make sure the City has skin in the game and plays its role in developing a local economy in the 4th Ward that reflects the rich diversity of our community, particularly as a pathway for Northsiders to get out of poverty and begin building wealth.
Cities can do many things to support locally owned businesses. What ideas do you have to support locally owned businesses in Minneapolis?
Dana Hansen: I think the best way to support locally owned small businesses is to ease restrictions and try to remove any unnecessary roadblocks.
Phillipe Cunningham: Small businesses are the heart of a local economy so it is incredibly important for the city to step up on behalf of entrepreneurs and small business owners. I have heard time and time again that small business owners have felt unheard and dismissed decisions are made in City Hall. With me as the 4th Ward Councilmember, this will no longer be the case. My door is open and I am ready to listen and learn. I will be an ally to and champion of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Based on my lessons thus far from conversations with small business owners and economic development organizations, here are some proposed ways for the City to support small businesses and new development in the 4th Ward:
Collaborate and invest in the aforementioned ecosystem
Increase visibility with an annual “Buy Local” campaign and Councilmember visibility in neighborhood businesses
Improve foot traffic by developing more walkable neighborhoods and density on commercial corridors and around commercial nodes/intersections
Invest in the development of mixed-use buildings to increase the supply of affordable commercial spaces near potential customers
What work have you done in your career to date to support locally owned businesses?
Dana Hansen: Currently I do not work in a career that allows me to support them, but I support them in my person life by patronizing them whenever possible.
Phillipe Cunningham: Professionally, since my career has been mainly focused on youth development, my most exciting work has been sparking an entrepreneurial interest and building skills to pursue it. I secured a grant for a youth workshop teaching young people how to start social enterprises now rather than waiting to start making a difference. I am eager to step up for small business owners in my new capacity as a City Councilmember.
Would you support strong proactive outreach to businesses to inform them about earned sick and safe time, minimum wage, and other labor regulations?
Dana Hansen: Yes, but I believe these regulations are all possible roadblocks or at least very large hurdles for small businesses.
Phillipe Cunningham: Absolutely. I connect building small businesses’ capacity to implement new regulations with improving workers rights, as well. They are the same side of the coin rather than to conflicting sides like the conversation has shaken out thus far. There are so many small business owners who want to do right by their employees and deserve the support to be able to do so. If the City is going to be at the helm of reshaping our City’s economy to be more equitable, it is also the City’s responsibility to make sure small business owners are brought into and supported throughout the process of upheaval and change. I will be a partner to small business owners as we seek together to build a strong, equitable local economy.