Local business owners gathered at the Clarendon Hotel in downtown Phoenix Tuesday to talk with state Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, about the issues they’re facing, with the discussion largely focusing on taxes.
Campbell, the House Democratic leader-elect, organized the event and said the purpose of the meeting was for him to hear directly from local business owners rather than from lobbyists.
“We don’t really hear the small business perspective,” Campbell said. “This informal conversation is meant to get a more genuine perspective in what small businesses would like to see going into this next legislative session.”
Kimber Lanning, founder and executive director of Local First Arizona, a group focused on supporting local businesses, said in this economic crisis small businesses need to have a say in Arizona’s future.
“We need to make sure we as small businesses have a seat at the table,” Lanning said. “We need to demand a seat at that table.”
More than 20 business owners of professions that included plumbing, farming and photography attended the discussion. With the new session starting Jan. 10, many of the attendees wanted there to be a focus on streamlining the tax code.
Campbell said many of the loopholes and exceptions in the tax code were unfair to local businesses, especially when looking at the 25 percent property tax for Arizona businesses.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the state,” Campbell said. “We need to make the tax code fair for Arizona businesses and keeping dollars here in Arizona and not ship it out.”
Jim Mapstead, board chair for Local First Arizona, said he hoped the event would be a springboard for local business owners to be able to talk to their legislators about the issues they face.
“We’re often told by legislators that they get really tired of hearing from lobbyists and the people that they see and have dinner with on a daily basis,” Mapstead said to the group. “It is people like all of us in this room right here who have a greater impact in telling legislators exactly what’s going on in our businesses than the lobbyists do.”
The issue of giving local businesses priority when it came to procurement, or the state accepting bids for contracts for different services, was discussed.
Lanning said Arizona is one of only three states, including Rhode Island and New Hampshire, that do not put a preference on local businesses for these contracts.
In 2008, a bill introduced in the Senate would have given the nod to local businesses in the event of a tie between a local and non-local business, but it was defeated in the House.
“We’re considering reintroducing the legislation, but we don’t have the support at this time,” Lanning said.
She said in order to get the law changed, the dialogue needed to be altered so others wouldn’t see that change as being unfair to big businesses.
“These types of changes could literally make a huge impact on our state’s economy,” Lanning said, pointing to other cities that have seen increases in the amount of consumer dollars that remain in the state from using this procurement practice.
Campbell said with 30 new freshman legislators coming into the House for the new session, business owners should let them know what their concerns are.
“It’s a golden opportunity to introduce yourselves to the new legislators,” he said.
Mapstead said the event allowed Campbell to know what business owners needed, but also allowed those business owners to see their common ground.
“There are a lot of frustrations and situations we face as business owners,” Mapstead said. “There’s a real commonality that exists here because we operate businesses in this state.”
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Startup Weekend Phoenix is a community building startup event. Participants get together with local developers, marketers, designers, enthusiasts and start companies in just 54 hours. The event will take place Friday, October 22 through Sunday, October 24, 2010 at CO+HOOTS coworking in Phoenix.
This is an amazing opportunity to meet other people interested in creating startups in Phoenix. Experienced mentors, attorneys and investors will be on hand to provide guidance and support to the teams throughout the weekend.
[Source: Jessica VanZalen, The Arizona Republic]
Jenny Poon says the co-working trend is starting to pay off for her.
Poon is the operations manager of CO+HOOTS, a place where people can come together to share office space, rent and even snacks. Independent workers who used to work from home or crowd coffee shops with their laptops are now seeking office-like spaces where they can focus, collaborate and be more productive.
“There are so many distractions in a coffee shop,” Poon said. “You can people-watch and start to get off track.”
With eight new members signing up since the July opening and a stack of eager applicants, Poon’s company is already turning a profit.
CO+HOOTS is part of a national trend that’s just getting a toehold in the Valley. It started in 2008 when the economy tanked and people started launching small businesses. Communal co-working sites popped up as a way for people to have offices without the overhead and risk of renting one alone. Some are open to workers in any field, and others target specific types, such as freelance writers, photographers and Web designers.
About 250 co-working centers are operating nationally, according to Emergent Research, a California-based small-business research company.
What are these places?
The co-working movement started in the Valley in 2007, when Chandler’s Gangplank communal workspace opened.
Downtown Phoenix got into the game this summer with CO+HOOTS.
“We really depend on smaller businesses to help the city grow, and this space can help that,” said Poon, 27.
Most co-working sites bring independent workers together with desks, a community table for collaboration, Wi-Fi, mailboxes and conference and break rooms. Membership and costs vary to make sure that overhead is paid. Acceptance processes vary to make sure that those who share the space will mesh, like at CO+HOOTS, where applicants go through a trial period as “drop-ins” to ensure the space is home to only entrepreneurially spirited, creative workers.
These buildings also serve as on-site community meeting spaces.
Owners organize guest business speakers, seminars on such subjects as social networking and nighttime happenings like open-mike nights and community concerts.
At CO+HOOTS, the cost to rent space is about $350 a month for a “lite” membership, securing a desk, a lock box and a key to the building. Poon said the space is large enough to handle 20 lite members and up to 15 drop-ins who work at non-reserved desks for $10 a day.
What’s it like to work there?
The space at CO+HOOTS feels like a college study room for the cool kids: a large, open room with several sleek metal desks scattered about.
In 1926, the building was the first grocery store downtown. The interior now reflects its adaptive reuse with exposed brick walls, local art and near-floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto Seventh Street south of Roosevelt Street.
Desks and leather couches are comfortable and movable so people can create their own work zones in this cubicle-free anti-office, allowing users to create a little privacy or collaborate more easily.
Web strategist Matt Clower enjoys playing workplace DJ and looks forward to the daily “recess” time when everyone chats and plays games that include chair races across the space.
Group critiques and help sessions make everyone’s work better, he said.
What he most enjoys is bringing clients to his office.
“They get to see the energy of the place, that there’s a bigger picture to the creative process, and there’s something about the environment of being around other people,” he said.
What is the future like?
The setup doesn’t work for everyone. Some workers can be intimidated by the lack of structure, the need to constantly self-start and the fact that newcomers have to work to become part of an established community, Charland said.
Co-working spaces shoulder the overhead and startup risks so the independent businesses in them don’t have to.
And that means they sometimes fail even if the businesses within flourish.
Drew Tyler opened BetaLoft in Salt Lake City in June 2009 because he saw the city was saturated with freelancers working at cafes and homes. After nine months, Tyler closed the space because he was losing money.
Workers in sprawling Salt Lake City were less willing to drive to the space, he said, and “there was also more overhead than I think we could handle.”
CO+HOOTS faces similar challenges: renting space to a group of creatives in an area known for suburban sprawl. To counter that, Poon is targeting workers who live within a 10- to 12-mile radius of the office and limiting membership to downtown Phoenix residents.
So far, so good, she said.
Tyler said co-working spaces should thrive as a younger generation moves into the workforce.
“The culture of co-working is counter to ‘working for the man,’ ” he said. “There is a different age group and demographic coming up that is going to do their own thing.”
Membership at CO+HOOTS
Full members: The cost is $650 per month. Full members get two designated desk spaces, two keys to the building, a lockbox, access to the meeting rooms and use of the entire CO+HOOTS space for three events each year, based on a one-year contract. They may also bring an unlimited number of guests to CO+HOOTS on a “guest pass.”
Lite members: The cost is $350 per month. Lite members get a designated desk, a key, a lockbox and access to the meeting rooms. They may bring in an unlimited number of guests on a “guest pass.”
Drop-in members: The rate is $10 per day for the hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Drop-in members occupy desk space wherever it available. They may prepay five drop-ins and get a sixth free or prepay for 10 and get two free.
Location: 825 N. Seventh St., Phoenix. (map)
More photos of CO+HOOTS can be found HERE.
The O’Neil Associations/ASBA Economic Indicators Monitor asked 3,000 Arizona small businesses whether they would be likely to ride Metro Light Rail when it becomes available. A majority (57%) indicated that they are either very unlikely (41%) or somewhat unlikely (16%) to use it. The potential usership among this group, however, is considerable. Fully 35% said they are at least somewhat likely to use it. This includes 13% who are very likely to use it and 22% who are somewhat likely to use it.
The poll’s director, Dr. Michael O’Neil commented, “Obviously, the potential usership of the system is constrained by its currently limited geography. A perhaps more significant obstacle however, is a psychological one: Phoenix has always been an automobile-centric community and convincing people to use light rail involves crossing a psychic barrier. How, and under what circumstances, users will respond to the actual availability of light rail remains to be seen, and will of course depend on the totality of riders’ experiences. In addition, the accessibility and availability of parking spaces near the point of origin and appropriate transportation or proximity at users’ destinations will be important factors. It will be interesting to track the changes in these figures once light rail actually becomes available later this year.”
[Source: City of Phoenix] — The City of Phoenix’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Economic Development Open Application Program is administered by the Community and Economic Development Department (CEDD). The goal of the program is to provide funds to community agencies that, in turn, foster economic growth in Phoenix’s small business community by providing direct business assistance. CEDD issues this Request for Proposals (RFP) annually.
This is an ongoing process and CEDD will accept proposals for the 2008-2009 Economic Development Open Application Program now through June 30, 2009. To be eligible for the first review, proposals must be received by 5 p.m., Friday September 26, 2008. Subsequent review deadlines will be established as needed.
For questions, contact Lisa Gmeiner, Project Manager, City of Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department, 602-534-6877, 200 W. Washington St., 20th Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003-1611.
|Download the RFP in:
|Download Affirmative Action Reporting Forms in:
[Source: Kathee Austin, EVLiving] — Governor Janet Napolitano has proclaimed June 30-July 6 to be “Independents Week” for Arizona. The proclamation coincides with Local First Arizona’s annual celebration of the independently owned, local businesses that are the backbone of a strong economy. “Small businesses are critical to Arizona’s economy, comprising more than 90 percent of the businesses in our state,” the Governor explained in a statement. “Whether they cater to neighborhoods, specialty services or other consumer needs, it is clear that these operations serve a vital role in the state’s and local communities’ success. That is why I proclaimed June 30-July 6 as ‘Independents Week’ — recognizing the considerable contributions small businesses make to the state.”
Local First Arizona, a coalition of more than 1,300 Arizona-based companies, will celebrate Independents Week by helping consumers sample the diverse and rich offering of their members. The Golden Ticket will provide 20 percent off purchases at close to 50 local businesses, ranging from Wist Office Products to Armoire Home to Uncorked Wine Bar and more. “Locally owned businesses return more of their resources to our community — through jobs, wages, support for nonprofits and much, much more,” explained Local First executive director Kimber Lanning. “Independents give us the unique shopping and dining opportunities that make Arizona different from any place else on earth. They are the Arizona-proud architects, engineers, and insurance providers who are your friends and neighbors. We are thrilled that the governor has chosen to recognize them and we look forward to helping all Arizonans declare their love for Independents.” [Note: To read the full article, click here. For complete details about Independents Week, including your very own Golden Ticket, click here.]
[Source: Associated Press, reprinted in the Arizona Republic, June 11, 2008] — Small business is risky business these days. Costs are rising, profits are shrinking, and the ability of the big guys to keep prices relatively lower is drawing away customers. Things are so bad that many small enterprises, which account for about 99% of the country’s businesses, say they are hanging by a thread that may soon snap. “We are basically losing money every month, about $1,000 a month. It’s been about two, three months now,” said Tom Weisbecker.
Weisbecker owns Isaly’s in western Pennsylvania, where patrons sit on green barstools at a Formica countertop and gobble the legendary Slammer, a sandwich stuffed with a half-pound of chipped ham and smothered in onions and cheese. Prices for many of those ingredients have skyrocketed in the past year. “We know our customers are already feeling the pinch with the gas prices and when they go to the grocery store. We’re trying to hold out, but we can’t go on much longer,” Weisbecker said.
In barely a year, the cost of pork has jumped by 50 cents a pound, while beef is up 20%; a five-gallon jug of canola oil that used to cost $15 is at $40; a 50-pound bag of flour jumped from $7 to between $20 and $25. And then there are fuel surcharges of between $5 and $9 that have been added to nearly all deliveries during the past six months. In the meantime, wages haven’t grown and the job market is tepid, at best. On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department said the nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 5.5% in May — the biggest monthly rise since 1986 — as wary employers cut 49,000 jobs. Average hourly earnings for jobholders rose to $17.94 in May, up 0.3% from the previous month. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
Scroll your mouse over each photograph for commentary from the “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown“ report of August 2004.
In the chapter on Locally Owned Business, the report states: “The city of Phoenix is facing an unprecedented surge in growth, and city leaders are working hard to make a livable downtown that will sustain the addition of 15,000 new ASU students plus 1,800 faculty and staff, the employees of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and massive additions to housing and retail space. In Phoenix, we still have the opportunity to keep our downtown unique and thriving, a combination vital to our quality of life and sense of place. Many people across the country are feeling a sense of loss in their communities due to the homogenization of their downtown corridors. The disappearance of local businesses is palpable and real. It is time to consider the real loss a community experiences when it loses its local business base, and choose instead to invest in our local economy, cultivate consumer choice, encourage cultural diversity, and ensure that our hometown maintains its own unique character.
From Barnstable, Mass., to Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Fullerton, California, communities are becoming politically active and rejecting the hollow promises the chain stores offer. Local business is a critical part of the social fabric of any community and helps to build tradition, pride and commitment. We can move towards becoming another bland, commercialized, and divided town where gated communities, private security services, and chain stores are prominent features. Or we can remain unique, beautiful, and open to new cultural expressions through the encouragement and development of our local business community.”