CITY HALL — With its lack of business license fees common in other cities, an award-winning downtown development plan and location in a major transportation nexus, Glendale has built a reputation for being business-friendly, but some local merchants say small businesses need more city attention.
With that in mind, City Councilman John Drayman on Tuesday requested that city staff study the feasibility of creating a task force that would focus solely on attracting and retaining small businesses in Glendale.
The task force, Drayman said, would comprise small-business owners, which would differentiate the group from the city Development Services Department’s Economic Development Program. That program operates with big and small businesses in mind, while the proposed task force would isolate the needs of small businesses.
“The people hired by the city, they’re not in small business,” Drayman said. “They’re in government, so even with best of intentions, they don’t necessarily understand or realize the intricacies and the individual needs of smaller businesses.”
The proposed task force could, for example, recommend and help develop incentives to help businesses, though specific policy ideas to help attract business would have to be generated by the task force itself, he said.
As it is, small businesses in Glendale have a bevy of networking and promotional resources built into the city’s six neighborhood business districts. Downtown Glendale, Kenneth Village, Sparr Heights, Adams Square, the Montrose Shopping Park and Brand Boulevard of Cars all have their own respective merchants associations that advocate on behalf of the neighborhood businesses. Those merchants and property owners can also use the services of local chambers of commerce.
But such resources “are pretty much involved in networking and promoting local business, and what I’m talking about is not really networking and promotion,” Drayman said. “It is retention of business as a whole. It is active courting of businesses to come to Glendale and to help to formulate an actual policy with regard to retail businesses.”
The city’s Development Services Department is welcoming the proposed task force as an opportunity to exchange ideas regarding small business, Development Services Director Philip Lanzafame said.
“[Development Services] provide a service, and we know of a lot of services that are available to small businesses, but we don’t know everything, and to have a task force works two ways,” Lanzafame said. “One, you have a group of people that are advising the Redevelopment Agency or economic development program, but you also have a sounding board to say, ‘Hey, we like this idea, what do you think?’ So I think it’s really beneficial to always have that line of communication.”
Though attracting and retaining corporate businesses is crucial for the city’s tax revenue and regional name recognition, small businesses are crucial to the city’s vitality, said Harry Hall, president of the Downtown Glendale Merchants Assn.
“The city, to me, has a vested interest in bringing more small businesses to town because most small businesses within the geographic area, they will participate in the city,” Hall said. “They have a vested interest in what is happening here, whereas the big businesses, once the wheels get greased and they get what they want, they forget that pretty quickly.”
RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.