What we are talking about

 

Our local economy

 

Sometimes when we read the news, it can be easy to imagine that our economy is limited to the University of Michigan and some high-tech companies in downtown.

 

Both play a role – but it's the local businesses that form the backbone of our community. Local business creates a sense of place and provides a unique flavor. Those businesses offer unique opportunities to define our community. The economic benefits from locally-owned businesses are enormous. So are the social benefits.

 

Government plays a role in encouraging a vibrant, local economy, when it sets zoning regulations and fees for services as much as when it establishes tax incentives. But the residents of our community also play a role – encouraging businesses by using their services or purchasing what they have to offer. Making the decision to use locally owned businesses helps us create that specific place we call Ann Arbor.

 

What's going on now?

 

There has been a lot of attention given recently to the downtown, with all the restaurants and bars, the new buildings and the occasional loss of older, established businesses.

 

But Ann Arbor has many other opportunities for local business. Local businesses can and do operate in a variety of locations, from residential neighborhoods to local shopping and office areas. Some businesses have employees, but the majority of businesses – ones we don't even think about – consist of only one person.

 

The City is engaged in creating an economic development plan, one that addresses a variety of business types. Sometimes, the best role for government is to get out of the way, but creating a strategy that encourages locally owned businesses in addition to tech start-ups and multi-national employers will increase the opportunities in our community.

 

Here's where I stand

 

Most government rhetoric seems to be about bringing large employers to the community – or, sometimes more importantly, keeping them in the community. Governments try to do this by offering incentives – lower taxes, fewer restrictions.

 

I'm much more concerned about increasing opportunities for locally owned enterprises. And for making certain that the costs of doing business are – as much as possible – within reach of ordinary people who don't have access to venture capital.

 

That's why I'm actively working with the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development to encourage a variety of funding mechanisms not covered by the venture capitalists. I've met with local bank representatives and Washtenaw County to discuss local investing and small loan opportunities.

 

Another way to allow the local economy to grow is to allow more self employment enterprises in a variety of areas in the City. Not all enterprises are well suited for all locations, of course, but a number of well-accepted businesses – such as yoga studios and exercise facilities – still require special exception permits, costing the owners time and money. I support a review of zoning with a close look at whether the restrictions we apply encourage or discourage creative opportunities.

Economy and Development

 

“Our community is vibrant because we invest in it. I don't mean our government - I mean us. We build companies. We shop in local stores. We use local banks. Sure, we can always go to the big box store; but we also choose locally owned businesses for their unique characteristics. We must constantly consider economic health as not just growth, but also local investment and local focus. And economic opportunities for us all.”

 

– Sabra Briere

 

 

 

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Paid for by Sabra Briere for City Council, 1418 Broadway, Ann Arbor, MI  48105