Questions for Candidates: How can the city council support small businesses?
New business development in downtown Rochester has some residents concerned about the future for existing small businesses in the city’s core.
As six candidates run for Rochester City Council seats in three of Rochester’s six wards, they were asked what they believe the council can do to support small businesses in downtown Rochester.
Here are their responses:
A healthy small-business environment makes for a vibrant community. But recent city developments have negatively impacted some downtown businesses. The council has power to support the small businesses that make our city unique in the areas of parking and regulation.
Most downtown parking is occupied by single-passenger commuters coming to work. By prioritizing alternatives for daily commuters, we free up parking and increase convenient access to downtown business.
For regulation, I want a review of our licensing structures and incentivize cost controls and streamlining for smaller businesses where city fees can make a giant difference. I am committed to finding ways to leverage DMC-driven growth to lift all businesses.
I think it is important to support small business throughout Rochester, but understand downtown small businesses come with their own unique set of challenges. In particular increasing land values and construction in the downtown area.
Are we creating unnecessary barriers? Do we have antiquated ordinances or license and permitting processes? Are we overcharging or slowing down approval with lack of organization and technology? If so, can we implement updates to procedures and save businesses time and money?
Rather than guess, let’s have a collaborative conversation with business owners on realistic solutions we can execute within the current environment of growth.
Operating a small business can be very difficult. Besides the constant battle of finding employees, there are also many other issues to overcome. These issues include trying to compete with larger “big-box” stores, taxes and keeping people coming to your business while in a construction zone.
I helped run Roscoes BBQ for more than 20 years, and I know how every factor can throw your business backwards financially. A $4,000 walk-in cooler repair can obviously be one factor. I remember when they shut down Fourth Street for a summer and how we barely kept the doors open.
City council can help by trying to keep taxes and fees low and also always ensuring a business can be accessed during construction work.
Elected officials do not need to explain to small businesses how to be successful. Small businesses know their challenges.
To support small business, we need to listen. I’ve made it a priority to listen to and work with businesses of all sizes. For example, during Broadway reconstruction planning, I met and worked with impacted small businesses. The result was a compromise that addressed small-business needs while at the same time making the necessary improvements for our growing city.
Parking is a downtown small-business issue I hear often. In the spirit of doing whatever we can for small business while still embracing growth, we should prioritize business parking uses. DMC must work for all businesses, of all sizes, for it to work for Rochester.
We need to make Rochester a welcoming community, and city leadership needs to work with all businesses.
We need to continue to work on police presence in the high-crime areas, more downtown parking and a parking system that works for everyone. Having more police presence during the day and night will make the downtown more inviting and will encourage people to enjoy our downtown. We also need to work on a better plan to accommodate all the businesses and their employees to make the downtown safer and parking more affordable.
The zoning and permit process needs to work better, be more transparent and user-friendly. By allowing permit applications online, we can eliminate people having to go to multiple sites to file a permit.
Small businesses are important to the economic health and vitality of downtown Rochester. These businesses diversify the economy and provide employment opportunities for workers. Downtown workers, visitors, residents — and the whole community — benefit from the goods, services, entertainment, culture, and arts provided by these businesses.
The Rochester City Council can support downtown businesses through the following:
• Maintain communication with business owners, seek their input, and consider their concerns in the planning and decision-making process.
• Provide proper maintenance of city infrastructure.
• Ensure public safety downtown.
• Work to minimize the effects of DMC-related construction on the area businesses.
• Strive to effectively deliver city services.
• Responsibly manage city government growth and the budget in order to control costs.