Resources for Businesses, Business District Org Structures, and more — Only in Seattle Peer Network Gatherings

On May 28, 2015, the Office of Economic Development (OED) hosted the second Business Retention and Expansion Partnership Peer Network Gathering. The first gathering in February focused on access to capital, and each of OED’s financing partners described how they are able to meet the various needs of business owners. While most of us agree that access to capital is one of, if not, the most important aspect to launching and growing a small business, technical assistance, resources, and support increase a business’ chances of long-term success. The good news is that OED’s experts are available to provide that technical assistance directly to businesses. Three experts from OED presented at the March Peer Network Gathering and shared how they are able to help.

Stephanie Gowing, Green Business Advocate, shared conservation services to help your business reduce utility bills, meet regulatory obligations, and lower operating costs. Also, Get on the Map is a unique opportunity for businesses to go green and receive free positive media attention at the same time. Coming soon is the Regional Green Business Program, a partnership with regional agencies to centralize resources, coordinate outreach and marketing, increase utilization for existing programs, and reward business’ environmental accomplishments. For more information, please contact Stephanie Gowing at stephanie.gowing@seattle.gov or 206-684-3698.

James Kelly, Small Business Advocate, discussed the perils of construction for a small business. James’ responsibility is to establish a direct line of communication with business and property owners impacted by construction, provide businesses with connections to training and capacity building, and manage marketing and promotional campaigns for business districts impacted by construction. Given Seattle’s construction boom right now, James is in demand and always willing to help. As an example, James finds unique ways to partner with developers and private parking lots for additional parking for construction workers during times when construction reduces the amount of parking for local businesses. For inquires related to construction impacts to businesses, please contact James Kelly at james.kelly2@seattle.gov or 206-684-8612.

Jennifer Tam, Restaurant Advocate, is the City’s main point of contact if you have any questions regarding your food business. Jennifer is here to help whether you are a restaurant, food cart, commercial kitchen, home-based food business, or anything in between. The Restaurant Success online portal is a good place to start if you have questions about starting or growing your food business. Jennifer can help with permitting, site-selection assistance, navigating the regulatory landscape, and more. Feel free to contact Jennifer for any questions you have at jennifer.tam@seattle.gov or 206-684-3436.

Through the Business Retention and Expansion partnership with local chambers of commerce, businesses can access support from these experts to help start, grow, or green their businesses. Check out the full presentation below.

 

Business District Organization Structures and Small Business Support

On April 30, business district leaders met over lunch at Big Chickie in Hillman City to talk shop. On the agenda was a topic that some business districts struggle with: What organizational structure is most successful and sustainable? While there is no right and easy answer for that, leaders stepped up to share successes and challenges of their own organizational structures, and how daily operations function. Rob Mohn of the Columbia City Business Association (CCBA) shared an overview of CCBA’s all-volunteer model and the evolution of the version that exists today. CCBA’s organizational structure relies heavily on volunteer hours from folks on four main committees: Goodwill, Marketing, Membership, and Business Development, and the public safety and cleanliness work is supported by the Business Improvement Area (BIA). A few keys to success from CCBA are: defining a reasonable geography, focusing on business district concerns and not overall neighborhood issues, and cultivating partnerships. Georgetown and Beacon Hill are similar in that they have paid staff, a 501(c)(3) designation, and rely on grants, sponsorship, and membership revenue to support events and existing programs. Challenges with both models seem to be sustainability and the amount of donated time by volunteers and board members in order to produce effective results. Continue reading the meeting notes for more information.

While a siesta was in order after the “pollo a la brasa,” folks were energized to talk about small business retention amidst all the growth and development pressures in Seattle. What can the City do to support small businesses better? What tools can OED offer and are there innovative tools that the City can adopt to support small businesses? While the concern was real, there were also potential solutions that were presented: Better access to technical assistance providers to support small business retention, and a handbook or resource guide to learn about what the City can do to help and how communities can access these resources were two ideas thrown out there. With that in mind, check out the following:

Some existing resources for communities to access:

  • Engage with the Design Review Board; DRB can convey community priorities to developers
  • Be an organized and proactive community, engage in local Land Use Review Committees
  • Explore Historic Districts and Landmark Preservation models
  • Find out if you are eligible for financing through Section 108 or New Markets Tax Credits
  • Access business technical assistance resources through the Business Retention and Expansion Partnership

Here are areas where the City can provide more assistance:

  • A guidebook for Department of Planning and Development to focus on the policy and review process
  • Engage in round table discussions with businesses and neighborhood planning
  • Retain affordable commercial space
  • Coordinate permitting processes to mitigate construction impacts on small businesses

Check out the meeting notes for more information. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to OED and we will be happy to help.