Small busi­ness

Los Angeles Times - - Business - Sharon Bern­stein sharon.bern­stein

Los An­ge­les of­fi­cials vow to help small firms nav­i­gate the city’s per­mit and tax pro­ce­dures.

With small busi­nesses con­tin­u­ing to be squeezed in an un­cer­tain econ­omy, Los An­ge­les city of­fi­cials have vowed to do a bet­ter job of un­tan­gling a vast gov­ern­men­tal bu­reau­cracy for small firms.

Not only do these firms need stronger ad­vo­cates in City Hall, of­fi­cials said last week, they also need more and clear in­for­ma­tion about what the city al­ready is do­ing to help.

“Job cre­ation and job growth at small busi­nesses is go­ing to be the en­gine that drives the re­cov­ery,” said Todd Wil­son, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor in the Mayor’s Of­fice of Busi­ness and Eco­nomic Pol­icy. “We want to do ev­ery­thing we can to help them pros­per and con­trib­ute to their suc­cess.”

Los An­ge­les Mayor An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa named a small-busi­ness team to sup­port the out­fits and help them nav­i­gate the city’s labyrinthine per­mit and tax pro­ce­dures.

“We’re go­ing to get out in the com­mu­nity and meet with as many small busi­nesses as pos­si­ble and re­ally try to be their voice and their point of con­tact,” Wil­son said. “So if you’re a small-busi­ness owner and you’re hav­ing a prob­lem with the Plan­ning Depart­ment or Build­ing and Safety, you’re go­ing to be able to con­tact me.”

The team will reach out to small-busi­ness own­ers and help them iden­tify re­sources at the city, state and fed­eral lev­els, Wil­son said. Many small-busi­ness own­ers are not aware that there are free con­sult­ing ser­vices of­fered by non­prof­its or that many pri­vate-sec­tor banks make grants avail­able to some small busi­nesses and start-ups, he said.

Los An­ge­les has al­ready be­gun sev­eral pro­grams, in­clud­ing one that pro­vides a three-year hol­i­day from the city’s busi­ness tax to en­trepreneurs just start­ing out, Wil­son said.

The city’s moves come amid small-busi­ness ini­tia­tives on na­tional and state lev­els. Pres­i­dent Obama signed long-awaited leg­is­la­tion Mon­day to spur loans to small busi­nesses, cut their taxes and help to fund non­profit small-busi­ness devel­op­ment cen­ters.

In Sacra­mento, ad­vo­cates worry that small busi­nesses will suf­fer if taxes are raised to bal­ance the state’s bud­get.

Small busi­nesses are also wait­ing anx­iously to see whether Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger will sign bills that set up pur­chas­ing groups to al­low many in­di­vid­u­als and small busi­nesses to band to­gether to buy health in­surance and re­ceive tax breaks on the premi­ums.

In Los An­ge­les, the small-busi­ness team will in­clude Linda Smith, di­rec­tor of the Mi­nor­ity Busi­ness Op­por­tu­nity Cen­ter, and Mar­cella Ayala, a di­rec­tor in the Mayor’s Of­fice of Eco­nomic and Busi­ness Pol­icy, in ad­di­tion to Wil­son.

Among the group’s ef­forts will be de­vel­op­ing a Web page to in­clude a cal­en­dar of lo­cal busi­ness events and in­for­ma­tion about ways to ob­tain fund­ing in the tight credit mar­ket, Wil­son said.

Vil­laraigosa said one of the most im­por­tant roles of the group would be to pro­vide ad­vo­cates for small busi­nesses. Large cor­po­ra­tions typ­i­cally have their own lob­by­ists, the mayor said, but tiny busi­nesses can’t af­ford that kind of rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“We are proud that Los An­ge­les is home to more small busi­nesses than any other city in the coun­try, and we are de­ter­mined to keep that re­mark­able dis­tinc­tion,” Vil­laraigosa said.

“That is why my of­fice cre­ated this small-busi­ness ini­tia­tive that will as­sign a team to iden­tify and mobilize re­sources for small busi­nesses to help them thrive and ex­pand.”

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