Now is the time for municipal government to help businesses succeed - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Now is the time for municipal government to help businesses succeed

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Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2013 12:22 pm | Updated: 9:55 pm, Sat Jan 18, 2014.

Expect to see me and people from my office showing up at businesses in and around Ahwatukee starting January.

We’re working to get around to all the businesses in the district, or as many as we can possibly hit, and talking to them about what the City of Phoenix can do to help their businesses – or what it does now that makes it harder for them to succeed.

My staff and I have been to many networking gatherings, and we talk with Phoenix business people all the time. In my opinion, though, there has not been a sufficiently wide-ranging conversation between government and the folks most responsible for creating jobs, revenue and services in our community. We intend to fan out across the district to have that conversation.

When we ask that question one-on-one with Phoenix merchants, “What is the city doing to help or hurt you?” we often hear about a headache getting a permit to expand, issues over a sign out front, a hassle over an unexpected payment. It runs the full gamut. Given the current state of the local economy, now is not the time for the city to be badgering the butcher and baker. Now is the time to help them succeed. Now is the time to find ways for them to improve their businesses enough so that they can hire another worker.

How can municipal government actually help, you might ask?

Mostly by lowering costs, getting things done faster and getting out of the way.

For example, we heard a lament about a restaurant owner who was trying to expand the outdoor seating area. On its face, it appeared like a marvelously greater use. The restaurant could do more business, creating more tax revenue and employment, and customers could better enjoy the weather and a patio dining experience that people often tell us they love.

But the restaurant owner had been running into barrier after barrier, in her view, getting permission to make it happen. When that kind of thing happens, our staff will step in and see if there is a good reason holding it up, like an electrical safety issue, or it’s just stuck in bureaucratic sludge. If it’s the latter, we often can pry it loose, and that’s one of the jobs of my office. If, however, that is a widespread and regular occurrence, it’s not just her problem; it’s the problem.

With this survey and our one-on-one conversations with business operators in your neighborhood and around the district, we expect to ferret out problems and develop a list of opportunities. We’ll take that and incorporate it into the debate over how to restructure Phoenix to make it work better.

• Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at council.district.6@phoenix.gov or (602) 262-7491.

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