Small business is the backbone of both our local and national economy. More importantly, small business ownership is the single best driver of prosperity for women and minorities. It is one of the only vehicles in which women and minorities can define and achieve their own prosperity without the worry of the glass ceiling holding them down. In Seattle, having a thriving small business community is what has defined the uniqueness and greatness of this wonderful city. We are enriched by our diverse cultures as ethnic restaurants from throughout the world thrive here. Local farmers, fishers, and foragers fill our farmer's markets, our store shelves, and add local ingredients to our plates. Our city has become a technology incubator and actively spawn start-ups after start-ups. We have a robust manufacturing, maritime, and industrial companies throughout our city. However, this business climate has changed drastically, and we must pay attention.
Tom Douglas, one of our most successful restauranteurs, has stated he will not open up any more businesses in Seattle. This should alarm everyone. Douglas has been an early-adopter of the $15/hour minimum wage and other pro-employee actions. But now he says, "There used to be some sort of good feeling about a business person coming and opening a business in your town, creating a liveliness in our downtown core and certainly helping with jobs and that sort of thing,”... And trying to be a good citizen through charitable work and through community activism.... And I just feel that from the perspective of a business owner here — I’ve been owning for 27 and working for close to 40 (years) in downtown — that (goodwill) has gone away. There is no respect for that. That’s the feeling I get from my council and that’s where my frustration is.” He is not alone.
Our good economy is masking what will likely be a devastating blow to small businesses. Like tenants, small business owners pay some of the most expensive leases in the state. They are paying some of the highest minimum wages in the country. The City Council continually passes 1 size fits all approaches to very different businesses, which ignore the realities of how some businesses must operate to survive. Even worse heavy tax burdens, regulations, and steep fees continue to make business ownership less attractive and actively threaten others trying to survive. Make no mistake, when our next recession hits, our small business will close at a much faster rate and they will extremely slow to reopen once the recession eases. We risk wiping out a large portion of the great small businesses that make Seattle a great city.
- Create a pro-business and pro-employee environment that recognizes the importance of balance and mutually-shared prosperity
- Hire a city economist to provide CBO-like scoring for impact of new city regulations
- Robust commercial property development to add more occupancy and lower rents while balancing the needs of the neighborhoods.
- Reduce the tax burden for small businesses in Seattle
- Reduce and/or eliminate costly license and permitting fees
- Streamline the business application process
- Streamline the permitting process
- Eliminate costly city-induced delays in build-to-suit permitting and occupancy process
- Develop Entrepreneurship program through public/private partnership
- Expand programs similar to University of Washington's "Startup Hall" to other parts of the city.
- Couple business development training, business plan writing and venture capitalist, angel investors, and other funding groups to create a small business incubator.
- Better enforcement of shoplifting and property crime which is causing huge security expenses to small businesses.