Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Strangling Entrepreneurship in Chicago

You might think life is miserable enough for small businesses in Chicago, but ever-more-numerous and convoluted roadblocks are put in their way, thanks to the city's insatiable appetite for revenue. Here, an entrepreneur with a dream faces a nightmarish and expensive maze, even before the doors are open for business. You know that classic American story of starting an enterprise with nothing but hard work and the few pennies in your pocket -- building an honest livelihood from it for yourself and for others? Well, that ain't happenin' in this town, my friend. For example:

Chicago will not allow someone to open a children's play center -- a business with toys and games and activities where parents or nannies can bring toddlers for a little neighborhood play group -- without paying a $770 application fee, getting fingerprinted, paying an architect for drawings, sorting out the Zoning Department's byzantine rules for off-street parking spaces and giving the neighbors a few weeks to object to the new business. A playroom must meet all the same requirements as a strip club or sports stadium. And while it waits for the government's blessing, the small business must stay closed but continue paying rent on empty space. The penalty for operating a playroom without the license? Up to $10,000 a day.
Now, small businesses across the city are being ticketed for hanging out a shingle without a permit -- a permit businesses can't get without a complicated and expensive array of requirements -- even if they were legal when they were originally hung.

When the city makes "anywhere but here" more attractive to entrepreneurs, it should be no surprise that Chicago leads the state in job losses. Steve Rhodes (NBC Chicago) sums it up nicely: "Let's face it, Chicago is a city that works best for those not doing the working. . . the cost of doing business in the city is two parts aggravation to one part 'here's my wallet, please leave me with something when you're through pillaging.'" Obviously, ballooning the cost of doing business increases the cost of living for everyone, making residence changes to more economically sensible communities very attractive -- especially when high taxes and other outrageous budget-wreckers (think parking meters and popping for politcal perks) are taken into consideration. Meanwhile, the Governor of Indiana offers a tempting invitation:
"We have simply made the choice here that we're going to protect taxpayers first, the most vital services, and everything else will have to take a step back, maybe wait its turn."

On property taxes: "We've cut property taxes to some of the lowest in America. All you folks in Illinois, you businesses and homeowners, come on over [to Indiana] and lower your costs of living."
Do the controlling Chicago Democrats care about economic damage to businesses and privately employed individuals, or is it really all about maintaining power? And if it is, is reform in Chicago even possible? One hard-working Chicagoan (and friend of mine) dismissively waved a calloused hand as he answered that question:
"These guys won't be happy 'til there's nuthin' downtown but cronies and tumbleweeds."
Sad to say, he may be right.

1 comment:

Does Anybody Care said...

As hard as the City makes it for a legit business to open that is how easy they make it for illegal businesses to stay open. I know of several that have opened child care centers in their home illegally, sell clothes out of their garage or van, sell buckets of soap out of their house, etc., all illegal all advertising in their windows, signs in front of their house.
Reporting this activity has done no good, you are given the excuse they can not speak English and we don't have enough people to cover the area, so they just keep selling illegally and not paying any taxes.

And while I'm on this subject, who in the City thinks a church belongs in our store fronts? they pay no taxes and they do nothing in the community that is of any good.

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