San Jose aims to be more friendly for small businesses
As some tech heavyweights leave the region citing unfavorable taxes and business practices, small businesses in San José are starting to gain more support.
Business owners still have to contend with complex pricing structures, different tax rates and red tape. But San Jose’s small business incubators, the pro-business mayor, and his proximity to wealthy tech companies make the process easier for some.
“Opening a restaurant is a lot easier than opening a bar,” said Eric Nielsen, owner of 55 South Craft Whiskey Bar and SP2 Communal Restaurant, both located downtown. 55 Sud is generally open after midnight, which requires a special permit. Nielsen said it was a “very long and complicated process.”
However, he said the permit process was much easier once he got help from the city. He praises San Jose’s outdoor program, which made it possible to eat al fresco during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped increase his income.
“They were extremely easy to work with and they made it very, very quick and straightforward,” Nielsen said.
Despite criticism of slow planning processes, a 2020 industry-led analysis released by small business funder Biz2Credit said San Jose topped the list of most small-business-friendly cities in the country. country.
The survey analyzed average annual earnings, credit scores, company age, and the exclusive Biz2Credit score, which takes into account the local business climate, including rents, cost of labor and tax rates. He defined a small business as an employer with 250 or fewer workers.
“The atmosphere of innovation here, the skilled workforce, the educated workforce is quite strong,” said Derrick Seaver, managing director of the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO), the chamber of commerce of the city. SVO has dozens of member companies, large and small, who advocate for business-friendly policies and practices.
Seaver says that while San Jose has more regulations than other cities, the way each small business deals with regulations is unique.
“I think what San Jose has the most work to do is modernize the (application) process so that much of it can be done online rather than doing it at city hall,” a- he declared.
The city has several resources to help local entrepreneurs, including a partnership with Businessownerspace.com, a small business incubator, and a list of FAQs for potential businesses.
One of the region’s largest incubators, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, represents around 400 businesses in the region.
Pedro David Espinoza, the organization’s vice president of business development, started his own business in 2014 called SmileyGo, a tech company that helps nonprofits connect with businesses looking to donate.
“You’re next to Google, next to Intel, next to Apple,” Espinoza said, noting that universities such as San Jose State University and Santa Clara University are being added. to the talent pool. The region’s weather also makes it more attractive to set up large companies. “It is very valuable to be next to your customers.
The region is diverse, both demographically and economically. Being in the tech capital also means that non-tech businesses like cafes, restaurants and retail spaces are also enjoying an economic boom.
Espinoza wants to attract more Latino-owned businesses to the region. Soon, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group will launch its 100 Startups initiative, which supports women founders and entrepreneurs of color through funding, resources and corporate partnerships. Current programs include networking nights, office hours, and workshops to help business owners with their business arguments.
And small business incubators, both nonprofit and individual, are stepping up to help.
Council member Raul Peralez urged city council in April to develop a $ 1 million fund to help small businesses when they reopen, and planning commissioner Rolando Bonilla asked for up to $ 6.5 million. dollars to help small businesses in eastern San Jose, where COVID-19 has been disproportionate. affected residents.
“The main reason small businesses tend to fail is because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t have that support and that mentorship, ”Seaver said. “But this place offers that.”
Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.