Small Biz Matters

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City Government / Entrepreneurship / Small Business

Should city do more to aid small biz?

September 7, 2011

The path to the Indianapolis mayor’s office runs straight down Main Street.

As IBJ’s Francesca Jarosz reported this week, incumbent Greg Ballard and challenger Melina Kennedy both have promised to help small businesses as part of their economic development efforts. Naturally, they’re taking different paths.

Ballard, a Republican finishing his first term, wants to create a “one-stop shop” where entrepreneurs can get assistance with everything from business planning to navigating the permitting process. His ideas—which include expanding airline service to Indianapolis and creating an urban environment that appeals to young adults—are intended to benefit all businesses, including startups.

New and growing companies are a more integral part of Kennedy’s plans. The Democrat, an attorney who owns a minority interest in local athletic retailer Blue Mile, had made recruiting entrepreneurs to the city one of her priorities. Among other things, she wants to help early-stage firms find funding and form a group of 15 to 20 executives who would mentor up-and-coming business leaders.

Reaction to their plans has been mixed. Some experts praise Kennedy’s focus on growing startups, saying it is a sound long-term strategy for creating jobs. Others support Ballard’s broader approach, saying better amenities could boost business.

And a couple observers say the proposals don’t go far enough to help homegrown firms with their biggest problems—like funding startup costs and offering employees health care benefits, for example.

What do you think: Should city government be more involved in nurturing small businesses, or is that a job for the private sector?

And if the candidates follow through with their plans, will it make a difference?

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