City opens arms to small businesses

Small-business owners burdened with the high costs of doing business in The City have a new aid to help them navigate the famously long and bureaucratic process of starting or expanding a company.

Advocates say The City has been a difficult location for small businesses to function because of its permit process and recent bottom-line additions such as paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage and a employer spending requirement for The City’s universal health care program.

On Monday — the beginning of Small Business Week in The City — Mayor Gavin Newsom, Treasurer Jose Cisneros and small-business community members cut the ribbon on a new one-stop assistance center located in City Hall.

Voters passed Proposition I last fall to create the Small Business Assistance Center and allocate $750,000 for its first year of operations. It will be staffed with case managers to assess individual businesses’ needs and offer one-on-one assistance in fulfilling them.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier said it was the beginning of the “reromancing” of small businesses in The City, something that was necessary for a segment of the market that employs 60 percent of employees in The City.

“The last few years have been really hard,” especially on restaurants, Alioto-Pier said. “The City does need to pay attention.”

Newsom said businesses are sometimes sent to a dozen departments and agencies to receive the appropriate permits.

“We have decided to try and get all of those other stops and incorporate them into that first and only, final stop,” he said.

Small-business advocates lauded the new assistance center, but said they are still struggling to have their voices heard in City Hall.

“It will help, but there are still problems that exist in San Francisco,” said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California.

dsmith@sfexaminer.com

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