In a welcome addition to the 2017 budget for Minneapolis, City Council members voted to make it easier for small businesses to set up shop. The council and Mayor Betsy Hodges agreed to establish a small-business "navigator" office to help aspiring entrepreneurs handle the various rules and regulations that apply to commercial operations.
The streamlined process should encourage more business start-ups, which will in turn add jobs, tax base and economic vitality to the city.
Small businesses seeking to open or expand in Minneapolis have complained for years about the multiple agencies they must navigate to get approvals for building improvements, food-handling or other licenses. The time wasted to go from one office to the next led to costly delays or, in some cases, resulted in business owners giving up and moving on to cities with more efficient approval processes.
Another plus is that the program will be revenue-neutral. Officials are directing the Community Planning and Economic Development agency to redeploy employees into a small-business-focused, one-stop office.
The navigator office also helps fulfill a pledge Hodges made during her first State of the City address. Following a study of city business rules, she vowed reform, including making license application forms shorter and providing better customer service.
Streamlining the small-business approval process also supports the city's emphasis on equity. A simplified pathway to start a business will help more women and minorities start and expand small businesses.
Twelfth Ward Council Member Andrew Johnson, a former small-business owner, amended the 2017 city budget to include the navigator office and summed up the problem. "We need a team of problem-solvers," Johnson said. "We also need a one-page checklist on how to open a restaurant or an auto body-repair shop. We need a small-business online portal. This shouldn't be based on who you know."