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On The Issues: Local Businesses

July 21, 2017

One reason I’m running for City Council is that I think City Hall could do business better.


We need to further advance bold policies that benefit the environment, lift up our working families, and otherwise cement our city’s place as a progressive pioneer. Part of that -- and something that too often gets left on the sidelines -- is lifting up our vibrant local business community.


Now is the time to take decisive action on policies that ensure Minneapolis will enjoy a robust local economy now and in the future. Corporate power and special interests dominate our marketplace, our media, and even our elections. It’s up to city leaders to think creatively and proactively when it comes to helping our local businesses thrive -- especially minority- and women-owned businesses.


These businesses are our local workforce. They deliver financial benefits close to home, create opportunities in communities, and provide goods and services that make our neighborhoods better. And they should be able to rely on support from the city, but this isn’t always the case. Too often, local business owners don’t get a seat at the table.


I believe our city missed an opportunity to act on the genuine concerns of our local business neighbors when they voted to increase the minimum wage last month. To be clear, I fully and enthusiastically support the long-overdue move to raise Minneapolis’ minimum wage to $15 an hour. (I wrote about that here.) I’ve spent my career fighting for low-wage workers, and even played a hands-on role in increasing Illinois’ state minimum wage.


But from the get-go, business owners -- from corporate bigwigs to mom-and-pop shop owners -- voiced skepticism about how the wage increase would affect them. Some of them took a hard line against higher wages. Some of them didn’t. And many of them, including some of our Ward 11 neighbors, wanted to stand with workers, but weren’t sure how to do the math on their bottom lines. Our city leaders did not do enough for those business owners who had legitimate concerns about a rough transition. It was a false choice that we could either raise the wage for low-wage workers or help our local businesses that employ them.  Our city needs to do both.


Through the debate, our city missed an opportunity to raise the minimum wage and  implement some safeguards for local businesses. The city started down the right path by conducting a study and convening listening sessions, but these efforts seem hollow without city leaders taking more explicit action on what they heard. Local business owners in Ward 11 are concerned rising personnel costs, on top of property taxes and fees, will put them out of business.  Better communication and more collaborative problem-solving would have gone a long way.


Going forward, city leaders need to continue to invest intentionally and efficiently in guidance and services to support all Minneapolis businesses -- not just the big ones, and not just the ones that already know their way around City Hall. This will be especially important over the next several years as these folks navigate the wage hike and avoid unintended consequences.


Local businesses -- including storefronts open for decades and brand-new ideas that are reinvigorating our community -- are the engine behind our local economy. They deserve partners at City Hall committed to helping them prosper. This is an essential component of the long-term economic health of Minneapolis, and one I will advocate for at City Hall.


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