Small Business Initiative Moving Slowly

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At the request of councilor and mayoral candidate Nancy McFarlane, a council committee discussed her small business initiative Tuesday, but members had too many questions to move forward.

McFarlane’s proposal would create a point of contact within city hall to field questions from people planning on opening a small business in Raleigh. That person would also direct owners to different organizations if needed. The proposal also calls for the creation of a nine-member commission.

City Manager Russell Allen said that Luther Williams, the city’s business assistance program manager, is being considered as the internal person to handle requests by people interested in starting a small business. But Allen added that Williams would still be responsible for his current duties, so additional help would be needed.

Allen said this would be one of the steps to get started with the process and research into the initiative is ongoing. He said staff believes that this would be part of a larger economic development plan.

McFarlane said that she appreciates that Williams has stepped up to the plate, but believes that the sole responsibility of the position should be to help small business owners. She added that she has been contacted by a number of organizations that already help entrepreneurs get started with their small business.

The person in charge would be able to help with things like permitting and fee questions, she said.

“We need one person as a single point of contact that can help link up people with these resources,” she said.

McFarlane, who is running for mayor in this fall’s election, said she still believes that a small business commission should be created, which would help with the best practices and how this works in other areas.

Octavia Rainey, a Raleigh resident and community activist, said that she wants a small business commission because those looking to start a business need to run all over the city for the information that they need. She said a central location would save the business owner time and money. She also suggested partnering with banks like BB&T.

Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin observed that Mitch Silver, the city’s planning director and a key person in the process, has been on vacation and suggested holding another meeting in a few weeks when he returns to hear what he has planned.

“I would feel more comfortable if I heard from him because ultimately he would be responsible,” she said.

The tentative dates for this meeting are August 23 or 30.

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