No responses: Teqen Zea-Aida, Joe Kovacs
Describe how you see the small business climate.
Janne Flisrand: We are fortunate to have many small businesses across Ward 7. From Bryn Mawr and Kenwood to Hennepin and downtown, from architecture firms to neighborhood retailers, small businesses play a tremendously important role in making our ward the great place it is. During the campaign I have been reaching out to a wide array of business owners, visiting their stores and offices and hearing their concerns. Listening to their stories, I hear common themes. Generally they are happy to have their businesses in our community, but feel ignored by city government and elected officials. Too often policy makers ignore the giant role that small businesses like those in our neighborhoods plays in our city’s economy. 36% of workers in our city work for businesses with 100 employees or fewer and 53% work for businesses with 250 employees or fewer. The continued success and growth of businesses like those I have been visiting during the campaign will have a huge impact on job creation in our city, the growth of sales tax revenue, and more. Beyond the economic impact, the small businesses in our ward play an outsized role in making our neighborhoods the distinct places they are.
Lisa Goodman: Vibrant but challenges remain.
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?
Janne Flisrand: Our community faces tremendous inequities. Confronting them will be a key priority if I am elected to the council. The disparities are the result of centuries of systemic racist policies including redlining. Our city needs an aggressive systemic response to confront disparities. I would work with advocates and diverse stakeholders to explore a wide array of approaches to confront the problem.
Here are some initial ideas:
Simplify the rules
Streamline the process for owners so you don’t need an MBA to comply with City requirements.
This will benefit all new small businesses, but disproportionately those that don’t have prior experience with the system.
Target outreach and support to underserved communities
Expand the City’s new small business team with staff who have experience working in minority communities and who have the language skills needed to help immigrant entrepreneurs interested in starting or growing small businesses in our community. Get City staff out in the community talking with business owners, especially in minority communities, and don’t just wait for the phone to ring.
Increase access to capital
Many small business owners have great challenges in accessing the capital they need to start and grow their businesses, especially minority business owners. The city should explore ways to ease access to capital, creating a revolving loan fund designed to get capital to entrepreneurs who are ready to invest in our community but are unable to get bank loans. By connecting those business owners with technical assistance and alternative financing tools, we can jumpstart increased job creation and wealth creation, especially in minority communities, and help to reduce the disparities.
Lisa Goodman: The office of small business and business navigators which I advocated for in the cities 2017 budget are a good first step. Small business doesn't have the resources big corporations have to navigate the city systems and they need hands on help often to get through the liscensing, financing and business development assistance the Cty and its partners provide. Small immigrant and locally owned start up businesses are the future of business in our city and we need to enable them to succeed. Business financing, a focus on alternative lending and credit enhancement programs and hands on business development assistance funding through the city but conducted by strong community non profit partners need to be a focus.
Cities can do many things to support locally owned businesses. What ideas do you have to support locally owned businesses in Minneapolis?
Janne Flisrand: I offer some examples in the question above about racial disparities in small business. Other ideas include:
Expand local procurement efforts with a preference for locally owned and small business for City Enterprise activities
Promote information about existing programs (for example Enterprise Zones)
Institute proactive outreach and communicate about city activities, especially policy changes like sick and safe pay
Pair outreach with technical assistance and other resources to help small businesses successfully comply with business and labor regulations
Launch a city-wide buy local campaign with elected officials and others promoting supporting our great local businesses
Help businesses find locations to start a new business or grow an existing one by maintaining and providing access to data on market conditions in the city that assist businesses in finding a location in Minneapolis that meets their needs
Increase access to affordable commercial space by exploring zoning changes and other approaches that encourage development of versatile small to mid-size commercial spaces
Lisa Goodman: Enforcing the cities paid time off policies, ensuring all immigrants in our community are protected, working to provide affordable housing and fighting for universal health care are all major policy areas that indirectly and directly assist small businesses. Eliminating red tape and regulation, funding small business lending and providing credit enhancement, providing navigation assistance though the zoning and licensing process and fully funding small business loan programs would help small business owners succeed.
What work have you done in your career to date to support locally owned businesses?
Janne Flisrand: Personally and professionally, I prioritize shopping at locally-owned, small businesses. I moved to Ward 7 because I loved the vibrant community, with one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, with cobblers and dentist offices owned by neighbors. I understand that to keep this amenity, it is my responsibility is to support these businesses. And I also know that because those small businesses belong to people in my community, patronizing them means my dollars stay here and provide jobs for my neighbors. I take this value to my work and my clients. Organizing meetings and conferences, I prioritize local businesses for catering and other needs. I send my printing to a locally owned print shop, use a small accounting firm for payroll, and hire a small business designer. And I make referrals to my network, as friends, family and colleagues who know I can often suggest a local company when they are looking.
Lisa Goodman: I fought for funding for the small business navigation program and office of small business. My work on funding alternative lending programs and small business grant programs has been quite successful. I opposed giving millions to the football stadium and advocated that this investment should have been spent on financial assistance to small businesses, who employ more people in our city than sports teams. I have authored the great streets business loan program, the halal lending program and worked on job training initiatives too. I'll also note the work my office did to legalize and promote food trucks as an innovative, at the time, way to eliminate the barrier to entry small locally owned food businesses encountered by allowing them to compete with restaurants and liven up downtown streets and now neighborhood events. More than two dozen now have now moved into brick and mortar storefronts employing hundreds of people in our city.
Would you support strong proactive outreach to businesses to inform them about earned sick and safe time, minimum wage, and other labor regulations?
Janne Flisrand: Yes, I would absolutely support strong proactive outreach to businesses on these matters. Businesses are a key stakeholder in labor regulations, and should be given a fair opportunity to weigh in. I support labor regulations that ensure all employees in Minneapolis earn a living wage and are treated with dignity and respect by their employers, and I know these regulations are most effective when all affected parties are given an opportunity to contribute their perspective to the process. My experience campaigning in Ward 7 has been interesting in this regard. I have doorknocked small businesses throughout the Ward, and have heard repeatedly that owners have not been contacted by the city about issues like the minimum wage and sick time ordinances that affect them directly. The majority of these business owners were surprised when I showed up at their doors, and pleased to have an opportunity to discuss these measures and the potential impacts on their businesses with a candidate running for office. It is clear to me that the City has treated these business owners as an afterthought rather than a key stakeholder too often; this is inadequate. Ultimately, the City’s goal should be to offer technical assistance and support complying with city regulations so entrepreneurs and small business owners focus on their core business.
Lisa Goodman: Of course! The paid sick and safe time and minimum wage policies only are a benefit if they are implemented and proactively enforced.