Small business built Denver, and small business will lead Denver into the future. New products, new services, or improvements to existing products and services - small businesses are the innovators in our local economy. They are always seeking ways to make our community better, and I want to recognize, support, and reward those efforts.
My husband and I are small business owners ourselves. We started with high hopes and big dreams - a like a lot of others. We were passionate about doing meaningful work that had positive effects on our community. The dream was always there and the passion never faded, but we also ran into a cold reality: it takes work, hard work, to make a business succeed. And it takes just as much hard work to make ends meet.
Because of our experiences and because of my passion for innovation, I am dedicated to helping other small business owners realize their dreams. We know small business brings diversity to the city - not only diversity of people, but diversity of ideas and perspectives, and diversity of goods and services.
We must clear the path for small business to thrive - when entrepreneurs win, Denver wins. We must support these hard workers who have no corporate safety nets to rely on, no huge bankroll to see them through lean times, no hidden pots of gold. No longer will we be a city that rolls out the red carpet for big business, but fails to do the same for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Instead, we will encourage and support innovators in our city. We will welcome cutting edge thinkers and inventors here. We will make Denver a great place to do small business. As your mayor, I will:
Create an Office of Small Business within the City
Small businesses are being hit hardest by recent property tax increases, increased permitting times and complications with opening their doors. As Mayor, I will open an Office of Small Business within the City of Denver that crosses departmental lines, appoint staff to serve as a concierge, and streamline processes to help you get your doors open. The Office will serve as a resource to not only address business planning and access to business development tools, but will break down permitting barriers and logjams. In addition to these services the Office will also:
● Partner with community business leaders to create an infrastructure think tank whose purpose is to forecast what the city needs to do to continue to attract small business now and well into the future
● Host productive conferences that support small business needs, in which the city can act as a clearinghouse for information and access to professional support at no cost to businesses
● Develop and deliver ongoing marketing efforts to celebrate innovation and to publicize Denver’s local and small businesses in Denver, regionally, nationally and internationally
● Host investor-entrepreneur meet-ups that expand beyond Denver Start-up Week
Ease cost burdens for small businesses in Denver
If we want small businesses to thrive in Denver, we need to be sensitive to their costs of doing business in the city. I have heard loud and clear on the campaign trail that small business feels squeezed, from the cost of taxes and rent to the restrictions and regulations imposed on them by the City of Denver. We can ease cost burdens by moving forward on the following:
● Provide tax relief and/or tax credit opportunities for small business start-ups to help them get on their feet. The City of Denver currently offers a Homestead Tax Exemption to assist homeowners struggling with cost of living to apply for a tax exemption. We can expand this to small businesses creatively, offering some relief in the early years of business creation.
● Create a one-stop permitting shop for small businesses. Did you know that the current elections office in Denver was built originally for this purpose, but never implemented? We will create a one-stop shop for small businesses to address all their permitting needs, and streamline the system to cut the process in half (or more) in year one. This means:
○ Assign each business an individual permitting officer to navigate regulations, fees and permits so that meeting requirements is clear and understandable. We’ve heard about the challenges that having different inspectors can create. Providing an assigned individual to each business will help alleviate that.
○ Identify where we can reduce fees and requirements for small business and implement those reductions immediately. This means evaluating existing policies and regulations for all departments that interface on small business.
● Provide access to labor, by expanding the city’s commitment to workforce development, apprenticeships and job training in partnership with community organizations and Denver Public Schools
● Advance construction mitigation efforts on small business, whether the project is a public or private one, including better access, improved notification processes, and where appropriate providing financial support during city construction processes
● Work with small businesses to integrate them into a broader sustainability plan, where diverting from landfill is less expensive to business than trash collection. This includes looking at partnerships to provide service on trash, recycling, composting and food waste systems city-wide.
Increase/ease access to capital for small businesses
The City of Denver provides some support for small business - including a revolving loan fund - currently, but we can get more aggressive, and creative, in helping businesses in a new economy thrive. Working together with the business community, the City can:
● Adopt a “slow investment” approach based on a “slow money” approach that puts an emphasis on incubation of businesses, not simply return on investment. The slow investment strategy would focus on connecting both city resources and investors to local economies by marshaling resources into small enterprises and local systems, as well as social enterprises
● Identify opportunities to work with both city resources, local banks and investor groups to underwrite and/or guarantee small business, lower-interest loans, longer-term loans
● Explore more grant and foundational support to invest in small-business startups
Encourage women, entrepreneurs of color, veterans and others traditionally underrepresented in this area of the economy to launch new businesses
To help everyone in Denver thrive, I believe the city has a role to play in reaching out to traditionally under-represented communities to help them in their efforts to launch their own small business. This requires the city to meet people where they are and help them overcome their unique challenges in small business startup. We can achieve these goals through:
● Mentoring support which connects new business owners with seasoned business veterans
● Targeted small business training and support, as well as access to job training and apprenticeships to develop skills necessary to succeed
● Support these small business owners with access to capital and low-interest, long-term loans
Embrace changes in minimum wage and healthcare costs and help small businesses absorb those costs
Wages and benefits improve the quality of life of employees and help boost productivity in small businesses, but they can also put a strain on the bottom line for small businesses when they face so many other operational expenses. I am committed to exploring ways to reduce costs where the city can - through reduced fees and requirements, expedited permitting processes, and tax relief - for small businesses who invest in employees.