What Minneapolis needs is a business-friendly culture for startups and expansions, says mayoral candidate Mark Andrew, who on Thursday outlined his plan to make that happen.
“Everybody has a horror story” of dealing with the city, said Andrew, who started “World’s Greatest French Fries” at the State Fair while he was still in college. “As I’ve campaigned, something has gotten my attention, and that is the number of small-business people and entrepreneurs across the board who have had bad experiences with the city over the years.”
Most small-business owners in Minneapolis are required to purchase a city license, and a permit to operate and are subject to inspections by city staff to make sure they are complying with city code.
Mayor R.T. Rybak started the process of restructuring the Department of Regulatory Services and the Community Planning and Economic Development Department, the two agencies that regulate businesses.
Andrew said he would expand that effort if elected.
“We need to make it easier for small businesses to interact with the city,” he said, talking about his plans outside his State Fair French-fry stand.
About 80,000 small businesses account for 40 percent of the jobs in Minneapolis.
He would expand technical assistance to help write business plans, find locations, link new businesses to similar established businesses and help find financing. He also would establish an incubator to encourage the growth of green businesses.
“Developers have had very protracted licensing and permitting processes that sometimes slow down development from one construction season to the next,” said Andrew. “Our job is going to be — instead of saying here’s why you can’t do something — to show them how they can do something.”
Andrew said he would establish an advisory group of business owners to review current city regulations to find ways to make it easier to do business. “We want to get rid of extraneous, duplicative and counter-productive regulations,” he said.
Scott Graham, an Andrew supporter, operates Uptown Realty and Management, which is responsible for about 100 rental properties in the Twin Cities.
“Minneapolis by far is the most complicated and most expensive city to run rental property in the Twin Cities,” said Graham. To convert a single-family home to a rental property, owners pay a $1,000 conversion fee plus a licensing fee, he said.
“That’s a large burden to place on people,” he said, “especially for people who are at the end of their financial rope.”
Andrew has spent the last eight years as president of Green Mark, a green marketing firm that worked with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field for LEED certification and rainwater recycling.