77.2 percent of our people in Long Beach work outside of the City. With only 22.8% of our people working in the City, it is clear that this City have been anti-small business for some time. In the vase majority of Cities in the United States, 85% of the revenue running the municipalities comes from small businesses. I am starting with this information so you will realize what kind of a bind we are in, and how off-track our City Government (especially the City Management) is. We need to reform City Hall and bring back programs that we had before to encourage the
development of small businesses and to retain them for the long term. We have done this work before, City Hall just lacks any institutional memory.
History Lesson #1
In 1991 The military downsized across the nation. Long Beach was an almost exclusively military town for jobs outside of the Longshoremen and the roughnecks on the oil rigs. People didn’t know how to react, so they kept thinking another $45.00 an hour job would show up. That never happened. We have more foreclosures than any other city in the State. We lost 175 businesses on Long Beach Blvd, in 6 months. The City Council and Management were like deer in headlights. They were paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. From the community arose the neighborhood associations. (before 1992 we had only 4 neighborhood associations in the City) From 1992 through 1995 129 neighborhood associations were created.
Just 5 organization was formed to assist the City in moving forward and re-establishing a business and economic base for Long Beach. I was on the executive board with John Thompson and Gerry Reidy.
We brought to the City the idea of the three pillars of economic stability. TRADE, TOURISM, AND TECHNOLOGY. Amazingly enough, the City Council and Management listened to us and moved forward with the task of saving the City.. During that year, Orange County went bankrupt. Long Beach dug
itself out of debt and we survived intact. These are the lessons we need to relearn and to put into practice.
How to reinvigorate Small Business in Long Beach.
We need to hire a Business Marketing Manager as we did in the past.
This will be someone who markets the City for small business development across the nation and the world. This is how we filled a vacant Convention Center at the time. Pro-actively reaching out with TV campaigns and print ads in magazines across the nation. We held symposiums on business development. We hosted “coffee klatches” to learn about what our city had to offer small businesses. We hired a Business Ombudsman to walk new businesses through the maze of paperwork and licensing and zoning requirements. We also had an Ombudsman in Building and Planning. Nancy Ahlswede and I pioneered a reform of the Business License Department, confronting the false narrative of the Department, and proved to the City Council that our business license was non-competitive and was, in fact, the highest in the local region. We got the City to lower the business license. We streamlined the process so that it took only 1 week to process the license. We put the business license application online for the first time.
As presidents of the Business License Fee Review Committee, we pushed this agenda of reform and business attraction through the City Council.
This is precisely what we need to do again.
1.) Lower the business license fee, lower than any other adjacent community from Torrance to Irvine, Pico Rivera to the sea.
2.) Reduce the time to process the licenses to 1 week only.
3.) Hire a business marketing advocate for the City
4.) Hire a Business Ombudsman to assist new businesses as they come to our city.
5.) Reduce the sales tax. (DO NOT VOTE FOR MEASURE A. It is a small business killer)
6.) Hire an introductory staff to personally serve small business entrepreneurs as they first walk in the department. Serve each with Tea, Coffee, and cookies just to show them we want their business.
7.) Create a Key Tenant fund to attract larger businesses to the City. ( We did that in the past)
8.) Create short videos we can post online for the business license department showing how to walk through our system.
9.) Create a Business Development wing of the Development Department specifically to attract, nourish and sustain a small business.
10.) Make Code enforcement a friendly part of our City, not the BEAST that comes in the night.
11.) Create Mentoring programs (like we used to have) where successful business leaders teach younger people and new small business owners how to create a business, spreadsheets, taxes, worker’s compensation insurance, liability insurance, payroll, management, and advertising, etc.
12.) Pro-actively go out to small businesses as they start up and see how the City can assist in their growth and success.
13.) Create enterprise zones in the areas of the City where we need businesses the most.
14.) Re-energize the light industrial area on the west side of the LA river, to clean up the streets, repair the infrastructure, improve the traffic access and remove the blight.
15.) Give façade improvement grants to small businesses to help improve their sites and neighborhoods
16.) Create business logos for each business area that are prominently posted in those areas, so we can brand those areas in our marking material.
The list can go on and on. There are so many things we can do, but we have to start now. With the expansion of Amazon and online shopping, we must creatively attract those businesses that will not be so overwhelmed by that trend. Boutique shops, Speciality Shops. Certainly, more tourism shopping experiences, and small manufacturing and art studios. Again, this is a community endeavor so we will need the neighborhood and business associations to unify, come together to vision this plan, and bring it to fruition.
Let’s stop being so short-sighted. Yes, you get money from the 10.25% sales tax at first, the ultimate result is the destruction of the small business community of Long Beach. If you had to buy a stove, would you go to Lowe’s in Long Beach and pay 10.25 percent? Or would you drive up Cherry Ave to Signal Hill and purchase the same stove for less sales tax? I believe the answer is self-evident.
Vote No on Measure A! This is just a scam to enrich the overpaid management of this City, and is a future business poison pill.